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Full text of "How to read history"

UNIVERSITY 
OF FLORIDA 
LIBRARIES 




COLLEGE LIBRARY 



HOW TO READ HISTORY 



HOW 
TO READ 
I HISTORY 



Archibald Robertson 



FREDERICK UNGAR PUBLISHING CO. 
NEW YORK 



Copyright ©1952 
by Archibald Robertson 



First American Edition 1954 



New Printing 1963 




Printed in the United States of America 
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 54-8062 





CONTENTS 




Chaptet 
I 


Why History ? 


Page 

I 


II 


Universal History 


9 


III 


Ancient History to Herodotus 


i6 


IV 


Thucydides and his Time 


23 


V 


Greece in Decline 


33 


VI 


The West Goes East 


45 


VII 


Rome Takes Over 


52 


VIII 


The Roman Revolution 


61 


DC 


The East Goes West 


82 


X 


Sacred History 


114 


XI 


End of a World 


135 


XII 


Medieval History 


153 


XIII 


Modem History 


184 


XIV 


Saga of Civilization 


230 




Index 


241 



CHAPTER I 

WHY HISTORY ? 

THIS," says Shaw in the preface to Man and Superman, 
" is the true joy in Ufe, the being used for a purpose 
recognized by yourself as a mighty one ; the being 
thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap 
heap ; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish 
little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the 
world will not devote itself to making you happy." 

I take this as my starting point. For it expresses better 
perhaps than any other single sentence in literature the answer 
— or at least the beginning of the answer — to the question 
why we should study history. History is a link uniting each 
of us as an individual with a whole greater than ourselves. 

If we consider man as an individual in isolation from his 
social environment, we are struck by his insignificance and 
futility. I hope to show presently that to isolate him in this 
way is an error. Nevertheless many thinkers have com- 
mitted that error, and many who cannot be dignified with the 
name of thinkers commit it in their daily lives. It is a matter 
of common experience that the person who is habitually 
absorbed in his own immediate interests is apt to be utterly 
miserable, and a nuisance to others into the bargain. And 
naturally so ; for the isolated interests of the individual do not 
appear on inspection to warrant the amount of trouble taken 
by himself and others to further them. To begin with, he 
has to be bom and to grow up. To judge by the trouble 
entailed by that alone, one would think that some great end 
was surely in view. Yet to the immense majority of people 
bom into the world life is a very doubtful bargain. The 
greater part of their energies are absorbed by the business of 
keeping alive. Then even that proves too much for them; 
and they die, leaving children to drive the same doubtful 



2 WHY HISTORY? 

bargain with the same result. The minority who are called 
fortunate or successful owe their reputation, as a rule, to the 
degree in which they are able to cajole or coerce the majority 
into contributing to their power and comfort before they too 
die, leaving a name '* to point a moral or adorn a tale/' Few 
of those singled out as great men would qualify for a place in 
Virgil's Elysium : 

Those good poets and true, whose songs were worthy of Phoebus; 

Those who ennobled hfe by wise and useful invention ; 

Those who by service done made names for some to remember.-'- 

Traditional religion answers the question in its own fashion. 
For the traditionalist the futility of the life of the average 
individual is evidence of the existence of an eternal life in 
which the frustrations of the present are compensated. 
" Man," says Kant, " is conscious of an inward call to con- 
stitute himself, by his conduct in this world — without regard 
to mere sublunary interests — the citizen of a better. This 
mighty, irresistible proof . . . remains to humanity, even after 
the theoretical cognition of ourselves has failed to estabhsh 
the necessity of an existence after death." ^ To those who 
can bring themselves to regard the present life merely as a 
preparation for eternity, history, in the sense in which we 
usually understand the word, is unimportant. The only 
history in which the consistent supematuralist should be 
interested is " sacred " history, i.e. those events or alleged 
events which are relevant to the plan of salvation. That the 
universe is the creation of an almighty, all-wise, and all- 
good God; that man by wilful disobedience to God is alone 
responsible for the evil state of the world; that God in his 
wisdom and goodness revealed himself to man through the 
Hebrew prophets and in the life, death, and resurrection of 
Jesus Christ; and that man by accepting that revelation can 
win eternal life — that to the traditional religionist is what 
matters and all that matters. How civilization arose from 
savagery; how empires grew, flourished, declined, and fell; 
what poets have sung, philosophers thought, scientists in- 

^ JEneid vi, 662-664. 

2 Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn, p. 251. 



WHY HISTORYr 3 

vented, patriots struggled for, or statesmen achieved — that, 
to the traditionahst, if he is consistent, matters not at all. 

But the traditional religionist seldom or never is consistent. 
Where practical life is concerned, he usually resembles the 
rest of us. He is as much taken up as the rest of us with the 
business of keeping alive and with the pursuit of fortune and 
success. He is as liable as the rest of us to become a nuisance 
to himself and others with his ailments and grievances. He 
may assent in so many words to the proposition that the 
present life is merely a preparation for eternity, but he does 
not act as if he believed it. His interest in " sacred " history is 
not noticeably greater than that of the Rationalist : it is often 
less. His interest in " profane " history is as great or as little 
as that of the average citizen. Judging by the criterion of 
behaviour, we are justified in concluding that traditional 
religion, for the majority of those who profess it, is more a 
convention than a conviction. That is not surprising; for 
the " truths " of traditional religion are in the nature of the 
case indemonstrable. Their chief effect, and indeed their 
chief function, throughout history has been to divert inquiry, 
which might otherwise be dangerous to the social order, into 
channels which, if fruitless, are at least harmless. 

Since the dogmas of religion are indemonstrable and, as we 
have seen, unreal to the majority even of those who profess 
them, man has to fmd some other way out of the insignificance 
and futility which await him if he considers only his interests 
as an isolated individual. One way out is to realize that the 
individual and his interests are in fact not as isolated as they 
seem. This truth is constantly obscured by the bad meta- 
physics with which traditional religion has succeeded in 
infecting everyday language. We speak of man as composed 
of mind and body, as if mind and body were two separable 
and dissimilar things somehow joined together. We mean 
by the body the organism we see and touch, and we mean (or 
think we mean) by the mind an invisible, intangible, immaterial 
entity somehow inside the body, yet independent of it and 
other immaterial minds in other bodies. This view is anti- 
quated and unwarranted. Man is not a mind joined to a body, 
but a " mind-body " — that is to say, an organism originating 



4 WHY HISTORY? 

from other organisms, certain of whose functions are to per- 
ceive and think, just as other functions are to eat, digest, and 
reproduce. As a convenience of language, we give the name 
" body " to as much of the organism as we can perceive with 
our senses, and the name " mind " to the perceiving and think- 
ing functions themselves. But the two are inseparably united. 
This functioning organism and nothing else is what we mean 
by an individual. 

Once we grasp the fact that the individual is not a mind 
linked to a body, but an integrated organism with mental and 
bodily functions, it becomes impossible to isolate him from 
the society to which he belongs. He derives his being from 
that society through his parentage and ancestry. He returns 
part of his being to it through his children and descendants, 
if he has them. This continuity between the individual and 
the race applies to mental as well as physical traits, as every 
student of heredity knows. Further, the individual is physic- 
ally and mentally dependent on society from day to day. 
We are not Robinson Crusoes ; we eat food prepared for us, 
we wear clothes manufactured for us, we inhabit houses built 
for us, and we use transport provided for us by other people ; 
and to adapt ourselves to a Crusoe existence would be to all of 
us an unpleasant and to many of us a fatal operation. The 
same applies to our mental life. In order to think at all we 
depend on language which we did not invent, but learnt from 
others. Our notions of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, 
beauty and ugliness are not innate, but derived from the 
society to which we belong, however much we may criticize 
and correct them in the course of our lifetime. All but an 
infinitesimal fragment of our knowledge of the physical world 
and of the past and present of human society is drawn from 
lessons and lectures, books and newspapers, talks and dis- 
cussions embodying other people's experience, not our own. 
This social heritage — to sum it all up in a phrase — ^has made 
us what we are. The isolated individual is a figment of 
metaphysicians. 

In a vague way man has always felt this. We do not start 
with the isolated individual and arrive at the notion of society 
by multiplication. Society in some form or other — the horde, 



WHY HISTORY? 5 

clan, tribe, family, city, or what not — is there first. Accord- 
ingly, man has always been interested in the past of his race, 
even when he knew little or nothing about it. The oldest 
literary form is the epic or saga. In this man tries to fill up 
the blanks in his knowledge of the past by spinning yams 
about real or imaginary ancestors. Every society has its 
ancestors, its mighty men of old, its heroes who, though they 
are dead, live on in their descendants. This biological con- 
tinuity with the past is a commonplace to us, but is enormously 
important in primitive societies where dead ancestors are 
revered as the authors of fertility and plenty. Even though in 
the age before written records men know nothing whatever 
of their ancestors, yet by reciting wonder-stories about them 
to the assembled tribe they do them honour, enlist their aid, 
show from w^hat a superior stock they themselves are sprung, 
and nerve themselves to new achievements. This seems to be 
the origin of the saga. Before there was history, there had 
to be myth. Myths may incorporate real events. We 
know, for example, that there really was a Troy and a Jericho, 
and that both were destroyed by enemies. But the genius of 
the myth-maker is not fettered by real events. Their reality 
is, as it were, accidental. 

Then comes the age of written records, and the saga assumes 
literary form. As yet it occurs to no one to doubt that these 
wonder-stories are in fact true. At that stage the distinction 
between a well-told tale and a true tale has not yet been drawn. 
The saga-maker is — one can see — gifted above other men and, 
if gifted enough to tell the story, is gifted enough to know the 
truth of it. Some such rough-and-ready reasoning doubtless 
underlies the ancient idea that the minstrel or poet is divinely 
inspired — possessed by something greater than himself, a God 
or a Muse who will not let him lie. 

The turning-point came when men of the trading cities of 
ancient Greece began to travel and to compare the myths of 
their own nation with those of others. The manifest incon- 
sistencies between myth and myth awoke the spirit of criticism 
first in regard to theology, and a little later in regard to human 
history. The inauguration of critical science in the sixth 
century B.C. by Thales and Anaximander was followed by the 



6 WHY HISTORY? 

inauguration of critical history in the fifth century by He- 
cataeus, Herodotus, and Thucydides. 

Of Hecataeus we know but httle. Herodotus is the first 
extant author who now and then instead of naively con- 
tinuing the story professes uncertainty or even incredulity. 
" Whether this account be true or whether the matter 
happened otherwise, I shall not discuss further." " I think 
that they say true." " I cannot say with any certainty." " I 
am of a different opinion." " I think that Homer or one of 
the earlier poets invented this." " My informant did not 
seem to me to be in earnest when he said it." ^ Herodotus, 
in short, tries, though with imperfect success, to be critical. 

Thucydides makes a big stride forward. He knows what 
scientific history should be, shows signs of recognizing its 
materialist basis, and treats popular legends with scant cere- 
mony. He even apologizes for following the usual practice 
of ancient historians in composing speeches of which he had 
no written record. He is the first Rationalist historian ; and 
his work is what he meant it to be — " an everlasting possession, 
not the prize essay of a day." ^ 

In Thucydides the historical science of antiquity reaches its 
high-water mark. He had no successor worthy of him, with 
the single exception of Polybius. The later Greek and Latin 
historians are either pedestrian chroniclers, talented special 
pleaders, or muck-raking scandal-mongers. Tacitus, the great- 
est of them all, professes to write " without bitterness or 
partiality," but has in fact too much of both. 

After that the twilight of the decline and fall descends on 
the scene. With the coming of Christianity the Old and 
New Testaments and the lives of the saints supply the place of 
saga rather than of sober history. The chroniclers of the 
Dark and Middle Ages often begin their work from the 
creation of the world, invariably punctuate it with miracles, 
and never rise to the level of Herodotus, let alone Thucydides. 
The throne of historical science is vacant until the Renaissance 
and Reformation. 

Thenceforward the need of the Reformers to discredit the 
Catholic Church, and the need of the Catholics to discredit the 

^ Herodotus, i, 5, 51, 57, 75 ; ii, 23, 28, etc. ^ Thucydides, i, 22. 



WHY HISTORY? 7 

Reformers, together result in the revival of the critical spirit. 
The first-fruits of that revival are the demolition of the more 
obviously fraudulent claims of the medieval Papacy and the 
more obviously puerile lives of the saints, and the sorting out 
of genuine sources for the history of the past — a process which 
culminates in the eighteenth century in the great work of 
Gibbon. Since Gibbon's day the labours of archaeologists, 
anthropologists, and innumerable documentary experts have 
accumulated such a wealth of material that it is now difficult 
for a student of history to see the wood for the trees. History 
has become less and less the affair of the gentleman of leisure, 
and more and more that of the endowed specialist rummaging 
among the archives of a chosen period and hoping, at best, to 
render its obscurity a little less obscure to the elect few who 
share his interests. 

That low man seeks a litde thing to do. 

Sees it and does it : 
This high man, with a great thing to pursue, 

Dies ere he knows it. 
That low man goes on adding one to one, 

His hundred's soon hit : 
This high man, aiming at a million. 

Misses an unit.^ 

The trouble is that, while the " high men '* — in other words, 
the historical specialists — pursue their great aim of knowledge 
for its own sake, we " low men " — in other words, the general 
public — get no benefit from it. The " little things" we do 
are for the most part concerned more with livelihood than 
with culture. . We are lucky indeed if they leave us with 
leisure, inclination, and energy to knock up a modest score in 
the field of general knowledge. Most of us grow to manhood 
misfed with the myths of yesterday, and never unlearn them. 
Even if we cease to believe them, the mischief is done ; for 
the result is a widespread ignorance of history, and indeed 
indifference to it, at a time when its educative influence is 
supremely needed. 

For modem man cannot do without literary links with his 
past. The function which the saga fulfilled for our barbaric 

^ Robert Browning, A Grammarians Funeral. 



8 WHY HISTORY? 

ancestors, and the Old and New Testaments for those of more 
recent date, needs fulfdling in a fashion worthy of a scientific 
civihzation. We, too, need our saga. The materials exist in 
abundance. The natural sciences, and the human sciences of 
anthropology and archaeology, have provided a wealth of 
data on the origin and pre-history of man. More is known 
of ancient civilizations than has ever been known before; 
and that knowledge is still growing. Today we may examine 
the maladies of the ancient world and the causes of its decline 
and fall not with the detached complacency of a Gibbon, but 
as men conscious of our own social maladies and of the need 
of a prophylactic to avert a deeper decline and perhaps a final 
fall. For the diagnosis of those maladies and the discovery of 
their remedy we can draw on the detailed and documented 
history of our own civilization, much as a doctor utilizes the 
case-history of a patient. Last, but not least, the study of 
history will help us to a sense of proportion and of the insig- 
nificance of much to which pulpit, platform, Press, and radio 
conspire to attach exaggerated importance. It is not too much 
to say that a knowledge of history makes the difference 
between a man and a Babbitt. It is the greater pity that the 
history in which most of us have been educated should be a 
tissue of triviality, false emphasis, suppression of fact, suggestion 
of falsehood, and downright myth calculated to deter us, 
once we have done with examiners and their vagaries, from 
ever touching the subject again. 



CHAPTER II 

UNIVERSAL HISTORY 

IT is usual to divide history into ancient, medieval, and 
modem periods. This is a convenient and, as we shall see, 
inevitable classification, but it has its disadvantages. It 
helps to generate that optical illusion which regards the 
ancients and the men of the Middle Ages as different varieties 
of men from ourselves and almost as different species, rather 
than as members of the same species. Homo sapiens, conditioned 
by a different social, economic, political, and cultural heritage. 
Man did not become a different creature when the Roman 
Empire declined and fell, or when Columbus discovered 
America. The changes which then took place were changes 
in man's way of life, not in man as a biological specimen. 
Moreover, they affected only Europe and so much of the rest 
of the world as interacted with Europe. The vast populations 
of India and China were not affected at all by the fate of 
Rome, and only in the course of centuries by the European 
expansion which began with Columbus. 

To correct the illusion due to this tripartite division and the 
even more pernicious illusion created by the "nationalist 
blinkers " in which most history is taught, it is natural that 
attempts should be made to write a universal history. The 
most attractive and, on the whole, successful of such attempts 
is that of H. G. Wells in The Outline of History. Wells will 
have no half-measures : he begins his story with the origin 
of the earth and of life, devotes several chapters to biological 
evolution, brings man on the scene in his second book, reaches 
civilization in his third, and conducts us by way of Asia, 
Egypt, Greece, and Rome to the rise of Christianity, which 
comes half-way through the work ; then by way of Islam, 
the Dark and Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reforma- 
tion, and modem power-politics to the First World War, 



10 UNIVERSAL HISTORY 

leaving mankind at the end of the eighth book faced with 
the alternatives of world-union or catastrophe. It is nothing 
less than the saga of civilization which Wells undertakes 
to write; and he does it on an imposing scale and with 
marvellous readability. 

It is easy to point to the pitfalls which beset any such under- 
taking. The anthropological, archaeological, and document- 
ary data necessary to write a universal history are more 
than one man can master in a lifetime, even with the expert 
advice which Wells called to his aid. There will inevitably 
be errors. Professional historians, jealous of the invasion of 
their province by a layman, were quick to pin-point those of 
Wells. 

There is also the old trouble of the forest and the 
trees. When a man sets out to write a universal history, he 
probably already has a compelling vision (kataleptike phantasia, 
as the old Stoics put it — an impression made by the thing 
itself) of history as a whole — say, WeUs' vision of " life 
struggling towards consciousness, gathering power, accumu- 
lating will," ^ until it accumulates the will to end confusion 
and war before they end it\ or the more concrete Marxist 
conception which replaces " life " by man in society, " con- 
sciousness " by the mastery of nature, " power " by produc- 
tive forces, and " will " by the class struggle. In so far as any 
such vision is based on scientific induction, it will be a key likely 
to fit many locks. The danger is that the historian may use 
his master-key as a substitute for the careful investigation of 
facts, and so fail to see the trees for the forest. Friedrich 
Engels had to warn his friends against using the materialist 
conception of history as " an excuse for not studying history." ^ 
Or the historian may fail to see the forest for the trees : he 
may get so immersed in detail that he omits to trace cause 
and effect, the general tendency in particular events, or the 
analogy between one historic process and another, so that 
the work becomes a mere chronicle, shapeless and uninstructive. 

Nevertheless the enterprise is worth while. We should be 
poorer without such a work as Wells' Outline. On the whole 

^ Wells, The Outline of History, fifth revision, p. 5. 
2 Engels to Schmidt, August 5, 1890. 



UNIVERSAL HISTORY II 

he avoids both the pitfalls of the universal historian. Some 
of the hypotheses used in his prehistory are shaky : e.g. the 
statement that " space is, for the most part, emptiness " is not 
up-to-date. But he is generally accurate and always vivid — 
at his best when he tells the tale of the Greeks and Persians, 
Alexander, Mohammed, the medieval Papacy, the English, 
American, and French Revolutions, Napoleon, and the de- 
velopment of modem science. And yet, while making the 
past live, he never for a moment loses sight of his unifying 
conception — man, the risen animal, evolving civilization by 
accident in certain exceptionally fertile regions a few thousand 
years ago ; man paying in loss of freedom and equality for the 
better technique taught him by his medicine-men and priests, 
and becoming the serf or slave of the god, or the priest-king 
who represented the god, or the lord to whom the priest-king 
delegated his privileges ; here and there man goaded by misery 
and insecurity into some sort of protest and evolving a new 
sort of God, a righteous God, to fight the discredited gods of 
the priests ; here and there man trading, travelling, inquiring, 
and beginning to know his world and himself; and the '' three 
ideas of science, of a universal righteousness, and of a human 
commonweal, spreading out from the minds of the rare and 
exceptional persons and peoples in which they first originated, 
into the general consciousness of the race, and giving first a 
new colour, then a new spirit, and then a new direction to 
human affairs."^ Wells' emphasis on " rare and exceptional 
persons " has too much in common with Carlyle's " great 
man " theory to be wholly satisfactory. Even the rarest and 
most exceptional minds must find people prepared to listen 
to them if the seed is not to fall on stony ground. But Wells' 
picture is nevertheless useful and educative. 

The most important function of a universal history is to 
give us a sense of historical proportion. The national his- 
tories which we learn at school take us back at most two 
thousand years, of which the first thousand are a skimpy 
prelude to the second, and the main interest is concentrated 
in the last three or four hundred. Ancient history, if we 
begin with Egypt and Babylonia, extends our knowledge of 
^ Wells, The Outline of History, fifth revision, p. 373. 



12 UNIVERSAL HISTORY 

the past a few thousand years farther. Compared with our 
school histories, those ancient civihzations seem antediluvian. 
But from universal history and its indispensable handmaids, 
anthropology and archaeology, we learn that the antiquity of 
man is far greater than those few thousand years. The earliest 
sub-men are estimated to have stemmed off from the common 
anthropoid stock at least a million years ago. If we pass over 
early tool-users like Piltdown and Neanderthal man as no 
direct ancestors of ours, and confine our attention to Homo 
sapiens, we know from the evidence of fossils that our species 
has a history in Europe alone of thirty or forty thousand years, 
and therefore presumably a much longer liistory elsewhere 
before Europe emerged from the Ice Age and became climatic- 
ally fit for habitation. Such an antiquity dwarfs that of the 
oldest civilizations much more than the antiquity of those 
civilizations dwarfs that of the Enghsh nation. 

If the ages since the earliest sub-men began to chip flints into 
primitive tools may be likened to the lifetime of an individual, 
we may say that recorded history began about a year ago, that 
Greece and Rome rose and fell within the last six months, that 
America was discovered a month ago, that the industrial 
revolution began within the last twelve days, and that the 
problems of world war and world peace have forced them- 
selves on our attention only since yesterday or the day before ! 
It is important that we should keep some time-scale such as 
this at the back of our minds and that we should be able to 
refer to it when contemporary events get too depressing. 
Let us bear in mind that during far the greater part of our 
existence on the earth we were primitive food-gatherers or 
hunters using no tools or weapons other than the chipped 
flints or bones which we now see in archaeological museums, 
and completely at the mercy of natural forces which we did 
not understand. Let us bear in mind that civilization with its 
arts and crafts and written records is something new on our 
planet, and that we have had, and still have, continually to 
adjust our traditional institutions and ideas to the changing 
environment which we ourselves have created. Then we shall 
be less surprised and disheartened at the difllculties of that ad- 
justment, and at the same time we shall be assisted in making it. 



UNIVERSAL HISTORY I3 

It is not a question of science having outrun moral de- 
velopment. That is a defeatist cry raised by reactionaries with 
a vested interest in despair. It is a question of man's power 
over nature rendering antiquated his social, political, and re- 
ligious institutions and ideas. It is not that we are bad at 
heart : it is that we are uneducated and woolly in the head. 
The forces which mould opinion — the pulpit, the political 
platform, the Press, the radio — devote a prodigious amount of 
time and energy to what can only be called the miseducation 
of the public by erecting into absolute values concepts like 
" Christian civihzation," " king and country," " democracy,'* 
and so forth, which are not absolute at all, which are demon- 
strably the product of history, and which are to be assessed by 
their utihty to the being who preceded and created them all — 
man, as old Protagoras said, " the measure of all things." 
Universal history at least provides an antidote to religious 
bigotry, national chauvinism, and journalistic claptrap. 

To be sure, it can be put to another use. History, declared 
Gibbon, " is little more than the register of the crimes, 
follies, and misfortunes of mankind." Or, as Tennyson ex- 
pressed it : 

Raving politics, never at rest — as this poor earth's pale history runs, — 

What is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a milHon milhon of 
suns? . . . 

Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter, and all these old revolutions 
of earth ; 

All new-old revolutions of Empire — change of the tide — what is all of it 
worth? . . . 

What is it all, if we all of us end but in being our own corpse-coffins at 
last, 

Swallowed in Vastness, lost in Silence, drown'd in the deeps of a meaning- 
less Past? ^ 

There is a certain arrogance in such judgments. The man 
who indicts mankind in the mass for their " crimes and follies " 
by implication sets himself on a pedestal as an exception to the 
rule. The criminal and foolish race at least had the grace to 
produce him to judge it. Either, then, he is a superman (a 
claim which nobody makes without qualifying for a mental 

^ Tennyson, Vastness. 



14 UNIVERSAL HISTORY 

institution) or the fact of common humanity should temper his 
judgment. The man who sees his fellow-men as *' ants " 
by implication assumes that he, in contrast to them, is some- 
thing more than an ant. Not only is this attitude arrogant, 
but it is fallacious. The needed correction was supplied by 
W. K. Clifford when he said : "I regard my fellow-men as 
animals in a menagerie, but I always remember that I am not 
their keeper, but one of them ! " ^ 

When we pronounce human history to be worthless and 
meaningless, we invite the question : " Worthless and 
meaningless to whom"?** Worth and meaning are relative 
terms. They always imply a spectator or auditor. Tra- 
ditional religion, by assuming a God as at once author, spec- 
tator, and critic of the cosmic drama, claims to invest life with 
absolute worth and meaning — ^whatever that may be — and 
then dogmatically denies that there can be any worth or 
meaning short of this. " Take away God," runs the argument, 
" and life is worthless and meaningless; and then where are 
you? " The answer is : just where we were before. Worth 
and meaning are human creations. Life has no absolute worth 
or absolute meaning, but it has a relative worth and a relative 
meaning to those who live it, and the more in proportion as 
they learn how to live. Its worth is the value we set on it; 
its meaning is what it means to us. 

History, in telling the story of man, relates among other 
things the values and meanings evolved in human society. 
We learn from it what life meant and was worth to the Greek 
and Roman citizen, to the Epicurean and Stoic philosopher, 
to the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem visionary, to the medieval 
monk or burgher, to the merchant adventurer and empire- 
builder, to the Puritan and Jacobin revolutionary. We are 
the heirs of all the ages. We stand on the shoulders of all 
these people. It is because so many of us have been told noth- 
ing about it and do not know it that our purposes are petty 
and our meanings muddled. To correct this is the greatest 
function of universal history. 

^ This remark of Clifford was repeated to me by the late William 
Boulting, who knew him. It does not occur, so far as I know, in any 
pubhshed work. 



UNIVERSAL HISTORY I5 

But few have the time to study history as a whole, and fewer 
still the time to write it. Division into periods is inevitable 
for both historian and public. As I shall proceed to show, 
the time-honoured division into ancient, medieval, and 
modem history is not so artificial or so false to fact as it may 
seem on first inspection. 



CHAPTER III 

ANCIENT HISTORY TO HERODOTUS 

THE conventional definition of ancient history applies 
that term to all that happened from the rise of the 
oldest civilizations to the fall of the Roman Empire. 
But, as we saw, the fall of the Roman Empire marks no break 
except in Europe and the Mediterranean lands. We need a 
re-defmition of the term which will give it a world-wide 
application. We can obtain this if we defme ancient history 
as that stage of social evolution, in any part of the world, 
during which society consists either of primitive groups based 
on common descent, such as the clan and tribe, or of simple 
aggregations of such groups, such as the tribal confederacy, 
the city-state, or the union of city-states in an empire of the 
ancient type. During this stage the tribal or civic basis of 
morality and religion, though it may wear very thin, never 
entirely disappears. The whole duty of man is duty to a 
social group; even the gods, as Jane Harrison shows, are 
projections of the social group and its needs. In the later 
stages of ancient history this basis gradually breaks down. 
Too many clans, tribes, cities, and confederacies have gone 
under in the struggle for existence, too many people have been 
carried into captivity and reduced to slavery or serfdom, too 
many gods have turned out to be no gods, or even to be 
devils, for the world any longer to seem good to more than a 
very few. A widespread conviction arises that the world 
is very evil. With that conviction comes a search for a new 
social basis, a new morality, and a new religion to replace the 
old tribal and civic foundations which have been cast down, 
and history passes into a phase which we may call medieval. 
This breakdown of ancient social organizations is seen in 
its most acute form in the Roman Empire. Nowhere else is 
there such a complete removal of old landmarks ; nowhere 

i6 



ANCIENT HISTORY TO HERODOTUS I7 

else is so large a proportion of the population enslaved. Else- 
where the breakdown occurs, and is accompanied by parallel 
symptoms of widespread pessimism and religious innovation, 
but the breach with the old is far less violent and complete. 
Buddhism never overthrew the older religions of Asia as 
Christianity did those of Europe. In India it modified them; 
in China it compromised with them. Hence those countries 
had, strictly speaking, no Middle Ages; their "ancient" 
history took on some " medieval " features and continued with 
no abrupt break to our own day. 

The thing to remember about ancient history, and indeed 
about all past history, is that it relates to men and women of 
the same species as ourselves. The majority were occupied, 
as we are, in getting a livelihood in the day-to-day battle with 
nature, in courtship, marriage, and the rearing of children, 
and, when necessary, in defending themselves against enemies. 
They knew less than we about the world in which they lived, 
had less command over nature, and were less critical than we 
of tales of the marvellous ; but their basic needs were the same 
as ours. In this way men had already lived through thousands 
of generations of prehistory, when a few thousand years ago 
in a few great, fertile river-valleys (the Nile, the Euphrates, 
the Tigris, the Indus) they unwittingly took a series of steps 
which launched them on the adventure of civilization. They 
invented pottery ; domesticated animals ; began to till the soil 
and clear the forests ; produced a surplus of food above that 
necessary to maintain and propagate their kind; found that 
it paid better to enslave their conquered enemies than to kill 
and eat them ; accumulated property in herds and slaves ; and 
evolved a complex social organization, the city-state, ruled by 
priests or glorified tribal magicians, who were also the first 
kings. 

Then began the long see-saw of empire-building and empire- 
breaking which priest-kings, after they had invented writing, 
recorded in detail on their monuments and which so dominates 
the written history of the ancient world that we are apt to 
regard those Pharaohs with sphinx-like features, those bearded 
Assyrian monarchs, and those plumed Greek warriors as 
typical men of their times. We depend for our knowledge 



l8 ANCIENT HISTORY TO HERODOTUS 

of ancient history primarily on inscriptions and books written 
by the slave-owning minority. That helps to make ancient 
civilization seem more remote from us than it really is. Those 
empires, we feel, are as dead as the men who built them: 
what possible concern can they be of ours ? Yet they were 
built and broken at the expense, and by the blood and sweat, 
of men of the same stuff as ourselves, who had to live and 
labour and keep the world going while carrying that imposing 
superstructure on their backs. This comraon material basis 
of life links the ancients to us no less effectively than the 
mathematics and astronomy of which Egyptian and Baby- 
lonian priests laid the foundations. 

One of the turning-points in world history was reached in 
the seventh century B.C., when the Egyptians, in return for 
aid by Greek mercenaries in freeing Egypt from the Assyrians, 
opened their markets to Greek traders. From that time on 
Greek travellers like Thales of Miletus in the sixth century were 
at liberty to compare Egyptian institutions and ideas with 
their own, to learn what the Egyptians could teach of mathe- 
matics and astronomy, and to compare and criticize the 
theologies of Egypt, Greece, and other countries. That was 
the beginning of the Greek achievement in science and 
philosophy. It was a matter of time only before criticism 
was extended to the story of the human past. The critical 
spirit is already active, though in a fumbling and erratic way, 
in the first extant historian whose name we know, Herodotus 
of Halicamassus. 

Halicamassus was a Greek colony on the south-west coast 
of Asia Minor, and in the youth of Herodotus was a de- 
pendency of the Persian Empire and governed by a " tyrant " 
in the Persian interest. Salamis was fought when Herodotus 
was four years old, but it did not liberate Halicamassus. He 
was thus debarred from the political career normally open to 
a freebom Greek. He spent his early manhood in travel, 
visiting different Greek cities, taking the Persian post-road 
from Sardis up to Susa, finishing his Wanderjahre with a long 
stay in Egypt, and everywhere collecting materials for his 
great work on the Persian invasion of Greece. In middle life 
he migrated to Athens, then at the height of her power and 



ANCIENT HISTORY TO HERODOTUS Ip 

prestige under Pericles, and thence as a colonist to Thurii in 
southern Italy, where at last he found an abiding city to call 
his own. He lived to see the beginning of the death-struggle 
between Athens and her rivals in the Peloponnesian War, and 
died about the age of sixty with the issue still undecided. 

In reading Herodotus, therefore, we look at the world 
through the eyes of a well-educated and well-travelled Greek 
in the most brilliant age of Greek history. His bias is such as 
we might expect. He has seen two civilizations at close 
quarters — on the one hand the far-flung Persian empire, heir 
of Babylonia and Assyria with their immemorial traditions of 
godship and kingship ; and on the other hand the little Greek 
trading cities, upstarts in comparison, which, under the 
leadership of Athens, inspired by a new idea of equal citizenship 
and free criticism, scored in his own lifetime a wholly unex- 
pected triumph over the Persian invader. Herodotus frankly 
prefers freedom, despises those Asiatic Greeks who tamely 
accept Persian rule (the lonians are a continual butt), and 
honours Athens as a liberator even though " most men," he 
knows, " will mislike the opinion." ^ 

He has been charged with credulity; and certainly his 
work does not satisfy our notion of a critical history. But it 
is an essay in that direction. History had but lately emanci- 
pated itself from epic ; and we should wonder less at Hero- 
dotus' frequent adherence to epic convention than at his 
frequent breaks with it. I have already given some examples 
of his scepticism. While believing in the gods, he does not 
hesitate to reject what he considers " silly fables " about them. 
True, after a piece of criticism he pulls himself up with the 
words : "In saying this much, may I incur no displeasure 
either of god or hero ! " ^ He tells us, on the authority of the 
priestesses of Dodona, that the early inhabitants of Greece 
had no distinct names for the gods ; and he adds, as his own 
opinion, that " Homer and Hesiod were the first to compose 
pedigrees of the gods, and give the gods their epithets, to allot 
them their several offices and occupations, and describe their 
forms." ^ In this he is not so far from the truth; for a god 
is originally the projection of the need of a human group for 

^ Herodotus, vii, 139. ^ ibid., ii, 45. ^ ibiJ,^ jj^ 52-53. 



20 ANCIENT HISTORY TO HERODOTUS 

food and drink and fertility, and of the rites by which it tries 
to win them : the individuaHzed gods of saga are a later de- 
velopment, arising when man no longer whole-heartedly 
believes in primitive magic and has to rationalize it how he can. 

The quaint medley of history, legend, and travellers' tales 
(often qualified with a wary caveat) which fills the first six 
books of Herodotus leads up to a cHmax in the deathless 
narrative of the remaining three. Here he is relating events 
within his own lifetime — events of which he may have heard 
from eye-witnesses; and even those who impugn his earlier 
books accept the authority of the later. 

Now and then something in the story makes us want to 
know more. Why, for example, was the oracle of Delphi 
on the eve of the Persian invasion so flagrantly defeatist ? 
Plainly because the priests were defeatist: they took the 
common-sense view that Persia was irresistible. But in that 
case did they really, as Herodotus says, counsel the Athenians 
to trust in their " wooden walls," and hint at the victory of 
Salamis before it occurred? The advice to embark is, no 
doubt, genuine. In the desperate case in which Athens stood 
after her unpardonable affronts to Persia, the best advice the 
oracle could give was to abandon the city and flee. But the 
" prediction *' about Salamis looks as if it had been added 
after the event — perhaps forged by the party of Themistocles 
to glorify his statesmanship. 

Again, why did Sparta send so small a force to Thermo- 
pylae? The heroic end of Leonidas and his three hundred has 
become such a legend as to blind nearly everyone to the fact 
that they were to all intents and purposes murdered in cold 
blood by their own Government. In military matters the 
Spartans were no fools. True, Thermopylae was a good spot 
to make a stand ; the passage between the mountains and the 
sea was then only a cart-track wide, not, as now, about a mile 
and a half; and the total Greek force numbered four thousand. 
But Xerxes had, on the lowest estimate, some hundreds of 
thousands of men to force it. The limitation of the Spartan 
contingent to three hundred does not suggest that Sparta took 
the operation very seriously. 

Herodotus gives several explanations. The defending army 



ANCIENT HISTORY TO HERODOTUS 21 

was, he says, a token force sent to induce the northern Greeks 
to fight till reUef came; Sparta was busy celebrating her 
harvest festival (the Camea) and could not move till it was 
over; also the oracle of Delphi had decreed that either Sparta 
or a Spartan king must perish. This " prophecy " was 
probably made up after the event. The festival might have 
served as a pretext for not defending Thermopylae at all, but 
hardly for throwing men away. No doubt the first explana- 
tion is the true one. Thermopylae was a delaying action. 
Sparta had to send some men to impress the other Greeks, but 
beheved the position indefensible and took care to waste as 
few troops as possible. As for Leonidas, he may have had 
enemies. The two royal lines were often at odds. If we 
knew more of Spartan internal politics at that time, we might 
understand why he was sacrificed. 

There are unforgettable touches in these last books of 
Herodotus. There is the warning said to have been given to 
Xerxes by the Spartan exile, Demaratus, as to the manner of 
men he is about to fight. " Though they be freemen, they are 
not in all respects free; law is the master whom they own; 
and this master they fear more than thy subjects fear thee." ^ 
There is the embassy of the Greeks to Gelon, the " tyrant '* of 
Syracuse (who had made himself master there by putting down 
a slave revolt), to enlist that ancient duce as an ally against 
Persia ; and his refusal to join unless they give him the supreme 
command; and the Athenian envoy's retort: "Greece sent 
us here to ask for an army, not for a general "; and Gelon's 
rejoinder : "Ye have, it seems, no lack of commanders, but 
ye are like to lack men to take their orders." ^ There is 
Xerxes* crucifixion of the body of Leonidas after Thermopylae ; 
and the chivalrous refusal of the Spartan Pausanias to retaliate 
in kind on the dead Persian commander, Mardonius, after 
Plataea. " Such doings befit barbarians rather than Greeks; 
and even in barbarians we detest them." ^ Other Greeks 
were not so particular, as we may gather from the grim story 
which ends the history. When Xanthippus the Athenian 
took Sestos, the last Persian stronghold in Europe, Artayctes, 
the Persian satrap (" a wicked and cruel man," says Herodotus 

^ Herodotus, vii, 104. ^ ibjj^ yjj^ j5j 3 jijj^j^ j^^ jg^ 



k 



22 ANCIENT HISTORY TO HERODOTUS 

in extenuation), was crucified, and his son stoned to death 
before his eyes. 

Let Herodotus sum up in his own words. " This I know — 
that if every nation were to bring all its evil deeds to a given 
place, in order to make an exchange with some other nation, 
when they had all looked carefully at their neighbours' faults, 
they would be truly glad to carry their own back again." ^ 
The conclusion of the whole matter, for him, is that which 
(after ringing the changes on the same theme in many places) 
he puts into the mouth of the Persian prince Artabanus, who 
vainly tries to dissuade Xerxes from the expedition. " Seest 
thou how God with his lightning smites always the bigger 
animals, and will not suffer them to wax insolent, while those 
of a lesser bulk chafe him not? How likewise his bolts fall 
ever on the highest houses and the tallest trees? So plainly 
does he love to bring down everything that exalts itself. 
Thus oft-times a mighty host is discomfited by a few men, when 
God in his jealousy sends fear or storm from heaven, and they 
perish in a way unworthy of them. For God allows no one 
to have high thoughts but himself." ^ A sentiment not, after 
all, very different from the early Christian : "He hath put 
down princes from their thrones, and hath exalted them of low 
degree." 

The history of Herodotus is a perpetual inspiration 
to brave men who have to fight against great odds in a 
seemingly dark world. 

The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning; 

Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air. 
And he that stands will die for nought, and home there* s no returning. 

The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair. ^ 

^ Herodotus, vii, 152. ^ Ibid., vii, 10. 

^ A. E. Housman, Last Poems. 



i 



CHAPTER IV 

THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 

FROM Herodotus to Thucydides is a bare generation. Yet 
to turn from one to the other is to turn from confidence 
to disillusion. It is to turn from a historian proud of his 
civilization, mildly sceptical of its more childish superstitions, 
but sure of the moral government of the world and hopeful 
of the future, to a historian more deeply sceptical, sure of 
nothing but the operation of natural causes, and without 
faith or hope in a civilization which seems to be tearing itself 
to pieces before his eyes. Allowing for obvious differences, it 
is like turning from the nineteenth century to the twentieth — 
from Macaulay or Kingsley to Spengler or Toynbee. 

After the defeat of Persia events moved quickly in Greece. 
Greek fleets under Athenian admirals swept the eastern 
Mediterranean, carrying the war into Persian waters and en- 
riching Athens and other cities with Persian spoils and bar- 
barian slaves. This age of achievement left its enduring 
message to posterity in the tragedies of i^schylus and the 
glories of the Parthenon. But the accompanying economic 
changes led to intensified class struggle and political faction. 
The saying of Abraham Lincoln that a democratic govern- 
ment " cannot endure permanently half slave and half free " 
was as true in ancient as in modem times. The peasants and 
artisans displaced from farms and workshops by slave labour 
had to be fed. At Athens this meant the corruption of 
democracy by doles at home and imperialism abroad, and 
everywhere a sceptical questioning of the traditional assump- 
tions of civic solidarity on which the conduct of Greek affairs 
had hitherto been based. Professional lecturers or " sophists " 
went from city to city teaching such startling and subversive 
doctrines as that there are two sides to every question, that 
truth is relative, that the gods are unknowable, and that right 

23 



24 THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 

and wrong are conventions laid down by groups strong 
enough to enforce them. Much of the teaching of the 
" sophists " sounds remarkably modern, and in a world 
cemented by real community of interest would make a good 
starting-point for social science. But in a world based on 
slavery and torn by class conflicts the conclusion suggested 
was that society would not bear thinking about and that too 
much thinking made bad citizens. 

In 431 B.C. Corinth, the chief commercial rival of Athens, 
induced the somewhat reluctant Spartans and their Pelopon- 
nesian allies to declare war on Athens, so precipitating Greece 
into twenty-seven years of convulsion. Thucydides, the 
contemporary historian of the Peloponnesian War, was a 
wealthy Athenian connected with the noble Philaid family, 
to which Miltiades and Cimon had belonged. He also 
owned gold-mines in Thrace. Interest, therefore, inclined 
him to conservative views. He was, however, steeped in the 
sceptical philosophy of his time. He is the first Rationalist 
historian — the first who systematically looks for natural causes 
in human affairs. In the opening chapters of his work he 
expounds something very like a materiahst conception of 
history. He draws a distinction between primitive society, 
in which men scratch the ground for a bare living and have 
no surplus with which to trade, and civilized societies, which 
arise in fertile countries, and therefore occasion both internal 
strife and foreign invasion. But Thucydides is no mere 
theorist. " Men," he observes, " accept one another's reports 
of past events, even in their own country, without examina- 
tion. ... So impatient of labour are most men in the search 
for truth, and so prone to jump to ready-made conclusions." ^ 
He for his part has tried to verify his facts, though that is often 
difficult: even eye-witnesses differ owing to partisanship or 
bad memory. 

He sees the Peloponnesian War as a clash not merely be- 
tween rival city-states, J>ut between two types of society — 
Sparta resting on landownership and appealing to the interest 
of landowners everywhere in securing their own dominance; 
Athens resting on money-power which can hire men to build 
^ Thucydides, i, 20. 



I 



THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 2$ 

ships, train and pay crews to man them, and appeal to the 
disaffection of the landless majority everywhere. In the 
speech put into the mouth of a Corinthian envoy urging 
Sparta to declare war, Thucydides effectively contrasts the two 
sides — Sparta conservative, slow in the uptake, too often a 
broken reed to her allies ; Athens enterprising, restless, always 
ready to scrap old customs for new expedients. 

The Athenian view of the matter is given in the famous 
speech of Pericles (which Thucydides may himself have heard 
and of which he probably preserves the substance) at the 
funeral of the Athenian dead in the first year of the war. 
Athens (says Pericles in words whose lofty ideaUsm still has 
power to move us) stands for something new in the world. 
" We have a form of government which does not ape the 
institutions of our neighbours : we set an example to others ; 
we do not follow theirs. The name of this government is 
democracy — so called because it looks to the interest not of the 
few, but of the many. All men are equal before the law 
where private interests conflict ; but in public affairs advance- 
ment depends not on class, but on ^orth and on a man's 
reputation in his walk of life." ^ Thereby Athens has become 
the greatest city in Greece. " Everything from every part 
of the earth is imported into our city : the commodities of 
other nations are in as common use as our own." ^ Unlike 
Sparta, Athens does not suffer from spy-mania. Anyone 
may come and go as he likes. Yet she holds her own 
against all comers. 

"We are artistic, yet economical; studious, yet not 
softened by study. Wealth to us is an opportunity of 
action rather than a matter of bragging. We hold it no 
shame to confess poverty, but a deep shame not to work 
to avoid it. Our citizens mind both their own business 
and the city's : even our artisans have a sufficient know- 
ledge of public affairs. ... In short, our city, take it all in 
all, is the school of Greece, and our private citizens, in 
my opinion, embody in their own persons versatility, 
grace, and refinement. . . . We have proved our power 

1 Thucydides, ii, 37. 2 j^jj^ jj ^g. 



26 THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 

by such evidence as shall make us the wonder of present 
and future ages. We need no Homer to praise us, nor 
any poet whose songs are sweet for a season, but whose 
report will not bear the light of truth. We have opened 
up every sea and land by our valour, and built everywhere 
everlasting monuments of our power to help or harm. 
Such is the city for whose preservation these men nobly 
fought and fell, and for which every one of us survivors 
should resolve to live and labour."^ 

Such was the picture of Athens in which patriotic Athenians 
liked to believe. We are irresistibly reminded of the encomia 
of modem British and American public men on the " western 
way of life." Thucydides puts it forward as the view of 
Pericles, not as his own. He seems to introduce this ideal- 
ization of Athenian democracy early in his history, in deliberate 
and ironical contrast to the reality which emerges as he 
proceeds. 

We for our part know that Athens was not the home of 
freedom and equality Jiymned by Pericles. One third of her 
population were slaves and formed no part of the citizen body. 
True, the life of an Athenian domestic slave was better than 
that of a Spartan helot. Plato, a generation after Thucydides, 
says satirically that in democracies slaves are as free as their 
owners ; but as he goes on to complain of the freedom of 
domestic animals in a democracy, it is difficult to take him 
quite seriously .2 Demosthenes, a generation later still, con- 
gratulates the Athenians on their mild treatment of slaves. 
The fact remains that slaves were liable to be bought and 
sold, to be flogged at the will of their owners, to toil 
under hard conditions on the land or in mines or work- 
shops, and to give evidence under torture if a litigant required 
it and their owner agreed. No less excluded from citizenship 
were the many aliens who settled at Athens to trade, and 
who were debarred from naturalization by a law of Pericles 
restricting the franchise to men of Athenian descent on both 
sides. Such were the realities behind the eloquent claims of 
his funeral oration. 

1 Thucydides, ii, 40-41. 2 pl^to, Republic, 563 B. 



THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 27 

It is naturally not on such grounds that Thucydides, himself 
an exploiter of slave labour in his Thracian mines, condemns 
Athenian democracy. It is rather that he has an intellectual 
contempt for shams — a contempt which in some ways antici- 
pates Machiavelli. Thucydides genuinely admires Themis- 
tocles and Pericles, the architects of Athenian greatoess, not 
because they were democrats, but because they had the ability 
(what MachiaveUi would have called the virtu) to handle 
democracy as their instrument. Thucydides uses them as 
foils to set off the knavish incompetence of later demagogues. 

These latter — Cleon and his kind — were not, as is often 
wrongly supposed, men of " advanced ideas '* championing 
the poor against the rich. They were wealthy manufacturers, 
employers of slave labour in tanning and similar enterprises, 
and advocates of a narrow and ruthless imperialism. Old 
Athenian families hated them for their bad manners and their 
ruinous war policy. Thucydides voices this hatred in his 
history, Aristophanes in his comedies. Because of this, and 
because Thucydides and Aristophanes each had a personal 
grudge against Cleon, modem Radical historians such as 
George Grote have undertaken his rehabilitation. But the 
thing cannot be done. The facts speak too loud. One 
flagrant instance is enough. In 428, after Pericles had died of 
the plague, the important mercantile city of Mitylene revolted 
against Athens and put her to the trouble of a siege. After a 
year the common people of Mitylene, armed for war by their 
rulers, turned on them and forced them to surrender. There- 
upon the rabid Cleon carried a decree that all adult citizens 
of Mitylene should be put to death and the women and 
children sold as slaves. This, as his opponents pointed out, 
meant massacring the friends of Athens as well as her enemies. 
Next day saner counsels prevailed, a ship was sent post-haste to 
stop the execution, and only the guilty were put to death. 
Grote naturally does not defend Cleon' s savagery, but he 
tries to extenuate it as " nothing more than a very rigorous 
application of the received laws of war." ^ A politician who 
could not see an occasion when, if ever, ** received laws '* 
were out of place is past rehabilitation. 

^ Grote, A History ofGreecCy cd. Mitchell and Caspari, chap. XX. 



28 THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 

Thucydides shows himself a thorough reaUst in his reflec- 
tions on the revolutionary struggles incidental to the Pelopon- 
nesian War. The immediate occasion of his comment is a 
revolution in Corcyra (Corfu) beginning with the murder by 
the local oligarchs of sixty pro-Athenian democrats, and 
ending with the local democrats, reinforced by slaves and 
even women, massacring every oligarch on whom they could 
lay hands. The massacre of Corcyra, says Thucydides, was 
the first of its kind. But later " all Greece, one may say, was 
in commotion. Everywhere there were struggles between 
the democratic leaders, who sought to bring in the Athenians, 
and the oligarchs, who sought to bring in the Lacedaemonians. 
In peace-time they would have had no pretext, nor would they 
have been ready to call them in ; but in war subversive elements 
on each side easily found occasion to bring in allies to put 
down their enemies and instal them in power. Many and 
grievous were the things which befell cities in these revo- 
lutionary struggles — things which occur now and will always 
recur while human nature remains the same, albeit with more 
or less violence and in different forms according to the par- 
ticular turn of events. For in peace and prosperity both cities 
and private men are better disposed, since they are not under 
the constraint of necessity. But war is a violent school- 
master : it robs men of their day-to-day margin of sufficiency 
and debases the character of most to the level of circum- 
stances.*' ^ 

This passage and the generalizations which follow on 
revolutionary violence have been much quoted. *' Things 
which will always recur while human nature remains the 
same " — ^here, it seems to some, is this wise old Greek looking 
forward prophetically from the fifth century B.C. to eighteenth- 
century France and twentieth-century Russia, and pronouncing 
sentence in advance on all revolutionaries in all ages ! But let 
us read him carefully. " War is a violent schoolmaster." 
Thucydides naturally is no Marxist : he does not see the cause 
of class struggles in the exploitation of man by man. But he 
does see the causal connection between war and revolutionary 
terror. He says in effect : " If you have the one, you will have 
^ Thucydides, iii, 82. 



THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 29 

the Other." There is no natural law obliging men to use 
violence against foreigners at the bidding of their Government, 
but debarring them from using violence against their Govern- 
ment at the bidding of economic necessity. There was no such 
law in fifth-century Greece ; there was none in revolutionary 
France; there is none in twentieth-century Europe or Asia. 
Those who do not want violent revolutions should not set an 
example of violence by starting wars. 

It is evident that in the Peloponnesian War slavery was the 
Achilles' heel of both sides. Sparta had ever before her the 
fear that her helots, normally kept down by terror, would see 
in her difficulty their opportunity. This fear was particularly 
acute during the Athenian occupation of Pylos in the Pelo- 
ponnese (taken by Athens in 425 and not retaken till 409). 
Hence the Fabian caution which so often exasperated the allies 
of Sparta. Athens, for her part, having slaves of her own, 
never took full advantage of this Spartan weakness. It is 
remarkable that, while Sparta had ready-made " quislings '* 
among the rich in every Greek democracy, no Athenian 
statesman, however bellicose — not Pericles, not Cleon — ever 
tried to organize a helot " fifth column." There was always, 
in fact, a pro-Spartan party at Athens which believed in the 
collaboration of the two states in defence of traditional institu- 
tions. In 461 this party had sent help to Sparta during a helot 
revolt. Pro-Spartan sympathies were naturally strongest 
among great slave-owners like Nicias, who hired out a thousand 
human chattels to work in the silver mines of Laurium, and at 
one time procured the conclusion of a treaty with Sparta 
providing inter alia that " if the slaves rebel, the Athenians 
shall assist the Lacedaemonians with all their resources." ^ 
Athenian statesmen were in a dilemma: to feed their 
people they had to hold their empire, to hold their empire 
they had to fight Sparta, and they could not fight Sparta 
decisively without endangering the economic basis of both 
states. This dilemma was their doom. Incapable of a 
revolutionary strategy, they fell back on a sterile imperial- 
ism which made enemies everywhere and friends worth 
winning nowhere. 

^ Thucydides, v, 23. 



30 THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 

Thucydides was no mere spectator of the war. In 424 the 
Athenians sent him to Thrace to oppose Brasidas (one of the 
very few men of genius whom Sparta ever produced), whose 
diplomacy and generalship were winning city after city to the 
Spartan side. Apparently Athens hoped that the local in- 
fluence of Thucydides would steady the situation in Thrace. It 
was an unequal contest; and the ill-success of Thucydides led 
to his impeachment by Cleon and banishment from Athens. 
He spent the next twenty years in exile, travelling and col- 
lecting materials for his history. 

Meanwhile Nemesis overtook his enemies. Cleon crowned 
a bully's life by a coward's death on the field of Amphipolis. 
Athens made a temporary peace with Sparta, but could not 
refrain from adventure. She accepted the leadership of the 
super-demagogue Alcibiades, an unprincipled aristocrat who 
out-Cleoned Cleon, and after an unprovoked aggression and a 
horrible massacre on the island of Melos, staked her all on 
the attempt to conquer Sicily. 

The two books devoted by Thucydides to this enterprise, in 
which Athenian imperialism over-reached itself, are of less 
philosophic interest than the earlier books, but are the most 
dramatic part of his work. We are shown the frenzied en- 
thusiasm for the expedition, which was to make the fortune 
of every Athenian — the populace and the soldiery expecting a 
" perpetual income " from the conquest. Next, the embarka- 
tion — all Athens flocking to Piraeus to see the start and joining 
in the public prayers for victory, and the high-spirited ships' 
companies " racing one another as far as i^gina." Then the 
pitiful panic in Athens over the nocturnal mutilation of the 
" herms " or phallic stone figures which served as boundary- 
marks or signposts. The mischief was probably done by 
" fifth columnists " who used the superstitions of the Athen- 
ians to create alarm and despondency. They succeeded only 
too well. A reign of terror began against those suspected of 
the sacrilege or of other impiety ; and Alcibiades was recalled 
from Sicily to stand his trial on a charge of profaning the 
Eleusinian mysteries. What a comment on the funeral speech 
of Pericles with its boast of philosophic enlightenment and 
freedom from spy-mania ! 



THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 3I 

Thucydides shows us Alcibiades giving the Athenians the 
sHp and escaping to the Peloponnese, where he cynically gives 
away his country's war-plans and spurs the slothful Spartans 
to renew their struggle with Athens. Prompted by him, 
Sparta sends Gylippus to relieve Syracuse, invades Attica, and 
fortifies Decelea, a few miles from Athens and within sight of 
her walls. This is a deadly blow. " Not only were the 
Athenians deprived of the use of their land, but more than 
twenty thousand slaves deserted to the enemy, of whom the 
greater part were artisans. Moreover, they lost all their 
sheep and oxen.''^ 

Meanwhile the wretched, dilatory Nicias leads the Sicilian 
expedition from disaster to disaster. The catastrophe is painted 
in masterly colours : the sea and land reverses before Syracuse ; 
the inevitable retreat put off by the superstitious Nicias on 
account of an eclipse of the moon ; the destruction of the 
Athenian fleet; the forlorn attempt to escape by land; and 
the last, horrible scene at the river Asinarus, when " the Syra- 
cusans (for the bank was steep) shot the Athenians from 
above, most of them drinking greedily and tumbling over one 
another down in the river. The Peloponnesians too came 
down on them and slew them, most of all those in the river. 
The water was soon befouled; nevertheless they drank it, 
defded as it was with mud and blood, and the greater part 
fought for it." ^ Nicias is put to death by his Syracusan 
captors (very ungratefully, considering how much he con- 
tributed to their victory) and the rank-and-fde prisoners are 
sent to a living death in the stone-quarries. " Army, fleet, 
and all perished, as the saying is, with an utter destruction. 
Few of many returned home." ^ 

Still Athens fought on — ^her country in hostile occupation, 
her allies revolting right and left, her enemies now reinforced 
from Sicily and fmanced by Persian gold, her city riddled with 
treason, her back to the wall. She was able to fit out and 
man new fleets, to victual herself by sea, and to win more than 
one striking naval victory. Not until 404, nine years after 
the Sicilian disaster, did she surrender. Thucydides recounts 
only the first two years of this last struggle. He returned from 

1 Thucydides, vii, 27. 2 jbij^ yjj^ g^ 3 jbij^ yji^ g^^ 



'ssssBBBBmasBmaaBmmmBmmfmKm 



32 THUCYDIDES AND HIS TIME 

exile after the final 'debacle, but seems to have found Athens little 
to his taste, and retired to his Thracian estate. There he came 
to a violent end in unknown circumstances, leaving his history 
unfmished. Five hundred years later Plutarch saw his grave 
in the Philaid burying-place at Athens. 



CHAPTER V 

GREECE IN DECLINE 

WAS there, it will be asked, no ancient Voltaire to flay 
with open scorn the iniquities and futilities which 
brought Greek civilization to its death-bed? If 
there was, his works have perished. One man's protest has 
come down to us — the protest not of a philosopher or his- 
torian, but of a poet. 

Euripides was bom of humble parents in the year (legend 
even says on the day) of Salamis, and died famous two years 
before the end of the Peloponnesian War. He therefore saw 
both the greatness and the decline of Athens. As a tragic 
poet he worked under severe limitations; for Greek drama 
was a solemn public ceremony, the handmaid of Greek 
rehgion, and in order to be produced at all had to conform at 
least outwardly to established ideas. It is all the more remark- 
able that Euripides should have succeeded in making it a 
vehicle for Rationalist criticism (albeit indirect) of contem- 
porary politics and contemporary religion. He is not un- 
patriotic. His ideals are those of the Periclean funeral oration. 
He is proud of the contribution of Athens to Greek civilization, 
and in more than one play praises her enlightened humanity 
in contrast to her reactionary rivals, Sparta and Thebes. But 
his patriotism is not undiscriminating. His Medea is the 
noblest protest voiced in ancient times against the subjection 
of women. His Ion is a thinly veiled attack on the national 
mythology and the Delphic priesthood which fostered it. 
And when Athens outrages enlightenment and humanity, the 
rebuke of Euripides is unmistakable. Late in 416 B.C. Athens 
made her unprovoked attack on the island of Melos, mas- 
sacred its men, and sold its women and children as slaves. A 
few months later, in the spring of 415, Euripides produced 
his Trojan Women, in which the horrors of the sack of Troy 

33 



34 GREECE IN DECLINE 

are painted with harrowing reaUsm. It must have needed 
courage to hold up the mirror in this fashion to a city drunk 
with recent aggression and aheady fitting out her armament 
for new adventure in Sicily. We need not wonder that 
Euripides became unpopular. In the end he turned his back 
on a Greece torn by ruthless power-politics and fmished his 
days at the neutral court of Macedonia. 

Withdrawal from the struggle, political and religious, is the 
note sounded in Euripides' last completed (and most discussed) 
drama, the Bacchce. This has for its subject the myth of 
Dionysus, the primitive fertility god of the ^gean peasantry. 
Euripides knew and respected the peasantry : in his Electra 
the one decent character is a peasant. The cult of Dionysus 
was late in winning recognition in polite Greek society. 
Homer mentions him only once and somewhat slightingly as 
" mad Dionysus." As against the dignified Olympians, he 
remained a crude, half-human, half-animal god incorporating 
many local tribal totems and worshipped by ignorant people, 
and especially women, with wild and uncouth rites. By the 
fifth century the struggle was over, and Dionysus had achieved 
respectability as the son of Zeus and patron of the drama. 
But in the Bacchce Euripides depicts the conflict, as he imagines 
it might have been, between Greek officialdom and this cult 
of peasants and women. He ends by rejecting both sides. 
He is decidedly not with the persecutor, Pentheus. He tells 
us in matchless poetry all that Dionysus stands for — com- 
munion of man with man, and of man with nature, in time- 
honoured ritual; an end to greed, power-politics, and vexing 
problems such as occupy "the world's wise"; strength in 
persecution; escape, as of" a fawn to the greenwood," from 
the tempest of striving to a haven of happiness. Yet suppose 
" the simple nameless herd of humanity " could by revo- 
lutionary violence — by " doom and deed " — smite and 
destroy the oppressive State machine, what would follow? 
Horrors from which Euripides averts his eyes — like the tearing 
to pieces of Pentheus by his own mother. There is no way 
forward — there is only retreat from such a world.^ 

Euripides had genius enough to divine the direction in 
^ See Dr. Gilbert Murray's translation of, and preface to, the Bacchce. 



GREECE IN DECLINE 35 

which his world was moving. In due course the worshippers, 
not of Dionysus, but of a new god (who, hke Dionysus, 
offered rest to the weary and heavy-laden, underwent death 
and resurrection, fed his congregation on his body and blood, 
and preferred " the foolishness of God " to the " wisdom of 
the world "), did their part in bringing ancient civilization to 
an end. So aware were some Christians of the resemblance 
between the new saviour-god and the old that one of them, 
by stringing together lines from the Bacchce and two other plays 
of Euripides, managed to fabricate a drama on the sufferings 
of Christ.i 

The RationaHsm of Euripides, then, ended in a retreat into 
mysticism. So, it seems, did that of his admirer, Socrates. 
Socrates was about ten years younger than Euripides and, like 
him, of humble parentage. In estimating him we are under 
the disadvantage of possessing no writings of his own, and we 
are dependent on three divergent accounts — that of a detractor, 
the comedian Aristophanes, and those of two disciples, the 
soldier-historian Xenophon and the philosopher Plato. 

Aristophanes, our earliest witness, produced his comedy of 
the Clouds in 423 B.C., when Socrates was about forty-six 
years old. It is usual to dismiss the Clouds as a mere extrava- 
ganza — a skit directed not at Socrates in particular, but at 
" sophists " and intellectuals in general. The fact remains 
that Socrates is the central figure in it. A competent cari- 
caturist (and no one will think Aristophanes incompetent) 
must be presumed to know whom he intends to pillory, and 
to base his caricature on some real features in his victim. 
When Aristophanes depicts Socrates as running a school of 
natural science and rejecting the gods, we need not take it all 
in sober earnest, but we must assume that Socrates had pro- 
vided a handle for the attack. Now we know from Plato 
that Socrates was interested in natural science in his youth, but 
lost interest later and confmed his inquiries to human affairs. 
We may be sure that, while his interest in science lasted, he 
discussed it with all comers. Whether he still did so in 423 
or not, the fact would be within recent memory. Aristophanes 

1 This tour deforce was once attributed to Gregory of Nazianzus. The 
real author and date are unknown. 



«■« 



36 GREECE IN DECLINE 

Spoke for the conservative landowners: everything new, 
therefore, came under his lash — the new demagogy, the new 
imperialism, the new science, the new scepticism. That the 
attack in the Clouds went home we know from the Apology of 
Plato. 

Socrates took no part in politics. His only two recorded 
public acts (the opposition to the mass execution of generals 
in 406, and the refusal to carry out an illegal arrest under the 
Thirty) are those of a stickler for legality, not of a party 
politician. No doubt he shared the disillusionment of 
Euripides. But he had friends in both political camps — 
Chaerephon and Lysias among the democrats, as well as 
Critias and Charmides among the oligarchs. This surely dis- 
poses of the contention that it was on political grounds that 
he was tried and executed in 399. Had it been so, the charge 
brought would have been political; for the Athenian de- 
mocracy never pretended to tolerate attacks on itself. 

The charge against Socrates was specifically religious. He 
was accused of propagating infidelity to the State religion — of 
" not recognizing the gods recognized by the city, introducing 
other and new divinities, and corrupting the youth." Xeno- 
phon, a superstitious conformist, is at pains to make out 
Socrates as pious as himself. But it is noteworthy that in the 
Apology of Plato (who witnessed the trial and may be pre- 
sumed to do justice to his master's defence) the charge of 
infidelity is not met. Socrates deals at length with the 
" ancient " prejudice against him as a scientific sceptic, and 
calls the bystanders to witness that they have never heard him 
discuss science. He could utter this challenge, no doubt, 
more safely in 399 than in 423. But when he turns to the 
charge before the court, he does not rebut it by professing 
belief in the gods of Athens : he merely makes Meletus look 
silly and contradict himself. (It is hard to believe that Me- 
letus was so incompetent, or that Anytus and Lycon sat by 
and let him make a fool of himself) The remainder of the 
defence is a memorable plea for free discussion and a defiant 
refusal to abandon it. The only further reference to the 
charge of infidelity is the closing avowal : " I do believe that 
there are gods, and that in a far higher sense than that in which 



GREECE IN DECLINE 37 

any of my accusers believe in them." ^ Pious Athenians must 
have felt their worst suspicions confirmed. Noteworthy, too, 
in the closing section of the Apology is the complete agnostic- 
ism of Socrates on the question of personal survival. If this 
is authentic, the confidently affirmative position attributed to 
him by Plato in the Phcedo is certainly fictitious. " We go 
our ways," he concludes — " I to die and you to live. Which 
is better, God only knows." ^ 

The history of Greece after the Peloponnesian War is a 
sorry story told, on the whole, by sorry historians. Xenophon, 
who begins where Thucydides breaks off, is superstitious, 
enthusiastically pro-Spartan, and without any conception of 
historical criticism. His metier was soldiering; and his 
leadership of the retreat often thousand Greeks from Babylonia 
to the sea (which proved, as it were, experimentally the weak- 
ness of the Persian Empire) was more important to the world 
than his performance as a historian. He deals in an entirely 
superficial way with the attempt and failure of Sparta in the 
fourth century to impose her policy on Greece in the teeth of 
democratic opposition, and the resultant stalemate between 
the rival democracies, Thebes and Athens. 

To understand what was really happening we have to go 
to authorities other than historians. Isocrates, a prosperous 
professional pleader and essayist whose long life lasted from 
the age of Pericles to the age of Philip of Macedon, tells of 
economic decay and chronic class and party warfare, loosing 
on Greece a mob of unemployed and " displaced persons " 
ready to sell themselves to any adventurer. "It is easier," 
says Isocrates, " to raise an army, and a bigger and better army 
too, from vagabonds than from law-abiding citizens." ^ He 
has his remedy, and consistently presses it on his countrymen 
over a period of more than forty years. The adventure of 
the ten thousand has shown Persia to be easy game. Let the 
Greek cities join forces. Let Athens and Sparta set the 
example ; or if they will not, let some strong man impose his 
leadership. Then let them invade Asia, loot the gorgeous 
East, and fmd homes for their surplus population. One 
** man of destiny " after another raises his hopes. First it is 

^ Plato, Apology, 35. 2 ji^j^j^ ^2. ^ Isocrates, Philip, 96. 



38 GREECE IN DECLINE 

Dionysius, the sinister tyrant of Syracuse. Then, after his 
death, it is Archidamus of Sparta. Then, Sparta being no 
longer what she was, Isocrates looks north and backs Philip 
of Macedon. His nationalism is qualified by one great 
thought. *' The name of Greek denotes no longer a race, but 
a habit of mind : they are rather to be called Greeks who share 
our culture than who come only of a common stock." ^ 

The sunset of the city-state had in fact come. It had failed 
to solve its problems, whether economic, political, or religious. 
In the fifth and fourth centuries the proportion of slaves to free 
citizens steadily increased, and with the growth of slavery the 
free peasant or artisan was impoverished. But if that growing 
mass of misery was to be held down, a welter of city-states, 
and especially of democratic city-states, was a wholly in- 
adequate instrument. We have seen how in the Pelopon- 
nesian War both sides went in fear of a slave rising, and how 
Athens actually lost twenty thousand slaves by desertion. 
Finally the religion of the city-state, based on prehistoric 
magic and myth, even though rationalized by poetry and 
refmed by art, would not bear criticism. Philosophers and 
" sophists " had done their work too well. A religion of the 
present was needed, not a religion of the past — one which 
would lend divine authority not to the fables of Homer and 
Hesiod, but to the tottering social order of the fourth century. 

We meet this quest of a new theoretical basis for a slave 
society in Plato. " Man," says he, *' is a troublesome animal, 
and therefore is not, and is not likely to become very manage- 
able when you attempt to introduce the necessary division of 
slave and freeman and master." ^ Hence Plato's idealist 
philosophy, which denies the reality of the sensible world 
and therefore of the objects for which class and party struggles 
are waged; his justification of lying as a means to subordina- 
tion in the State; his assertion of the divine right of the 
philosopher-king to dominate the common run of men ; and 
his vendetta against democracy, against the " sophists," against 
experimental science, and against materialism and atheism — 
culminating in his advocacy of the death penalty for impiety. 
On this subject Plato becomes really violent. '* Who can be 
^ Isocrates, Panegyricus, 50. ^ plato, LawSy 'JTJ. 



GREECE IN DECLINE 39 

calm," he exclaims, " when he is called upon to prove the 
existence of the gods ? Who can avoid hating and abhorring 
the men who are and have been the cause of this argument? . . . 
How can anyone in gentle terms remonstrate with the like 
of them?" ^ Persuasion is difficult with the multitude and 
takes " a dismal length of time " : therefore let the impious, 
who have not the excuse of " childish levity," be punished 
with death.2 Anytus and Meletus would have agreed. 

Parallels between ancient and modem historical figures are 
by their nature precarious, and should never be pressed. 
Otherwise it would be tempting to compare Plato and Thomas 
Carlyle. This will seem blasphemy to Plato-worshippers who 
see in their philosopher the author of a wellnigh perfect 
system of thought. Yet Plato is not so systematic a thinker 
as might be supposed. The thought of the Protagoras is not 
that of the Republic, nor the thought of the Republic that of the 
Parmenides. Allowing for the difference of circumstance 
between the Athenian aristocrat and the Scottish peasant-sage, 
they had a good deal in common. Each had a leaning to 
mathematics and mysticism and an aversion to inductive 
science. Each thought that the world was going from bad 
to worse. Each rejected the outworn mythology of his age, 
but was convinced of the necessity of religion and scornfully 
hostile to materialism. Each was revolted by a society 
abandoned to money-making, and contemptuous of those 
who made of the instruction of mankind a trade instead of a 
vocation. Each reinforced his exposure of contemporary 
evils by an idealization of the past — in Plato's case, a pre- 
historic Athens described on the imaginary authority of 
Egyptian priests; in Carlyle's, monastic life as recorded in a 
medieval chronicle. Each looked to a great man, a hero or a 
philosopher-king, to impose on his countrymen the discipline 
which he deemed necessary to their salvation. These like- 
nesses are obscured by the different media in which they 
worked. Whoever cares may speculate how Plato, had he 
been a historian, would have dealt with the Peloponnesian 
War, or how Carlyle, had he written philosophic dialogues, 
would have caricatured the false prophets of" gigmanity " in 
^ Plato, Laws, 887-888. 2 j^j^j^ 3^0^ ^q^^ 



40 GREECE IN DECLINE 

verbal duels with Goethe, Emerson, or his imaginary 
Teufelsdrockh. 

Whatever the vices of Athenian democracy, at least it went 
down fighting. No contemporary history of the last struggle 
with Macedon is extant. We are dependent on the orators 
— chiefly Demosthenes — and on second-hand narratives like 
those of Diodorus and Plutarch, compiled three or four cen- 
turies later. As always, contemporary evidence is the most 
worth study, provided we remember that no orator is an 
impartial wimess, and that later writers had access to sources 
which have since been lost. 

Demosthenes was the son of a rich Athenian manufacturer, 
but was impoverished early in life by fraudulent guardians 
who embezzled his patrimony. In spite of a successful action, 
he never recovered the money. He therefore started poor, 
and earned a living by writing speeches (as the custom then 
was) for litigants to deliver in the courts. He did not enter 
politics until his thirtieth year. The ancients told many 
stories of his difficulties in training himself to speak, of his 
stammer, of his taking lessons from an actor, of his practising 
with pebbles in his mouth, and so on. We need not believe 
all this, but we may accept the general impression conveyed 
— that Demosthenes made good under heavy disadvantages. 
Three years after his political debut he began his unremitting 
campaign against the Macedonian peril. 

In doing so he swam against the tide; for the most in- 
fluential men in Greece (Isocrates, for example) saw in the 
invasion of Asia under some such leader as Philip of Macedon 
the only way out of their economic and political troubles. 
Such projects did not interest Demosthenes. He is no im- 
perialist: his first political speech combats the idea of an 
aggressive war against Persia. He is — to use a modem idiom 
— a " little Greek " and somewhat of an idealist. Bit by bit 
he feels his way towards a reconciliation between Athens and 
her rival Thebes. He believes in democracy, in decent rela- 
tions between Greek states, and in the dictatorship of none — 
not even of Athens. ** Never begin an injustice," he cries, 
" in either word or deed.^ . . . Our city has always had one and 
^ Demosthenes, On the Navy Boards. 



GREECE IN DECLINE 4I 

the same object, to protect the injured. . . . Circumstances 
change, Athens changes not." ^ Blind to the economic causes 
which compelled Greece to choose between imperial expan- 
sion and social overturn, he imagined that the punishment of 
corruption and the revival of antique patriotism would alone 
solve his problem. " There was something," says he of the 
old days, " in the hearts of the multitude then, which there is 
not now. . . . Whoever took money from aspirants to power 
or corruptors of Greece was universally detested: it was 
dreadful to be convicted of bribery. . . . But now . . . what? 
Envy where a man gets a bribe; laughter if he confesses it; 
mercy to the convicted; hatred of the denouncer." ^ 

Phihp had come to the throne in 359 and had set to work 
from the first to make Macedonia a great power. The claim 
of the Macedonians to be Greeks was disputed in antiquity, and 
is disputed today. They seem to have spoken a dialect closely 
akin to Greek, but perhaps less intelligible to an Athenian than 
Highland Scots today to a Cockney. In the early years of 
Phihp's reign he had made himself master of Amphipolis and 
other Greek cities on the Thracian coast, together with those 
gold-mines which had once belonged to the historian Thucy- 
dides, and which now served to swell Philip's revenue and to 
organize a party for him in every city of Greece. In 352 
Athens awoke to fmd Philip in control of Thessaly. Until 
then Demosthenes had not meddled with the question : he 
was, we must remember, still a political beginner. But from 
now onwards in speech after speech he calls on Athens to shake 
off her lethargy ; to remember her former prowess ; to arm 
against Macedon before it is too late ; not to leave her defence 
to mercenaries, but to grudge neither men nor money for the 
fray. He tries, in short, to re-create the Athens of Pericles out 
of its ashes. In the end, in 338, he manages to align Athens, 
Thebes, and other cities in a common democratic front against 
the invader. But it was then too late to avert defeat at 
Chaeronea. 

Hopeless though the battle was, Demosthenes towers 
above the orators who opposed him. Isocrates was not of 
their number : he was a man of the pen, not of the platform, 
^ For the People of Megalopolis. ^ Third Philippic. 



42 GREECE IN DECLINE 

and by the time Demosthenes entered poUtics, was m extreme 
old age.^ As to the others — the theatrical i^schines, the venal 
Demades, and the rest — it is significant that in 330, when all 
was over, when the Greek city-states lay prostrate under 
Macedon, when Alexander had conquered the East, and when 
history seemed to have pronounced finally against Demos- 
thenes, he was nevertheless able to win a verdict against 
i^schines in the Athenian courts and to drive his rival into 
voluntary exile. 

The speech of Demosthenes on that occasion, the famous 
oration On the Crown, is a masterly vindication of all for which 
he stands. Athens, he says, has lived up to her heroic past 
and fought a good fight for the common freedom of Greece. 
He has done his best to further her war effort and to see that 
no class shirked its duty to the State. 

" At home, I never preferred the favour of the wealthy 
to the rights of the many : abroad, I valued not the 
presents or the friendship of Philip above the general 
interests of Greece.** 

Nor does he now repent. 

" To all mankind the end of life is death, though one 
keep oneself shut up in a closet ; but it becomes brave 
men to strive always for honour. . . . Do not impute it to 
me as a crime that Philip chanced to conquer in battle. 
That issue depended not on me, but on God. . . . Never, 
never can you have done wrong, men of Athens, in under- 
taking battle for the freedom and safety of all ! . . . By 
success we should have become incontestably and de- 
servedly the greatest of peoples. Even in failure the 
result is glory." ^ 

Eight years later, after the death of Alexander, Athens and 
other Greek cities rose against the Macedonian regent, Anti- 

^ The story, immortalized in Milton's sonnet, that Isocrates died of grief 
at ** that dishonest victory at Chaeronea, fatal to hberty," rests on late 
authority and is inherently unhkely. Isocrates had backed the winning 
side, he was ninety-eight, and he may easily have died from natural causes. 

2 On the Crown. 



GREECE IN DECLINE 43 

pater. This time she was finally crushed, her democracy was 
suppressed, and Demosthenes and other patriots were con- 
demned to death. Demosthenes took sanctuary in a temple 
and, when it was surrounded by soldiers, eluded his would-be 
captors by swallowing poison. According to Plutarch he 
staggered from his place of refuge, saying : *' Gracious 
Poseidon, I quit thy temple while I yet live ; Antipater and his 
Macedonians have done what they could to pollute it," and 
fell dead by the altar. So in his sixty-second year ended this 
Pericles bom out of due time. Though his cause was lost, his 
stand for democracy lit a flame thousands of years later in 
men and nations of whom he had never dreamt. Clemenceau, 
the leader of France in the First World War, and Hyndman, 
the father of British Social Democracy, fighting for freedom, 
as they understood it, against a new Macedon in the shape of 
imperial Germany, both drew inspiration from the example 
and eloquence of Demosthenes of Athens. 

Aristotle, the exact contemporary of Demosthenes, in his 
Politics (completed after 336), writes the epitaph of Greek 
democracy. For Aristotle, as for Plato, the slave basis of 
society is bed-rock. Those '* capable of reflection and fore- 
thought " ^ are by nature masters : those not so capable are 
by nature slaves. True, accidents will happen; *' slaves have 
sometimes the souls of freemen ";2 there is the danger of 
revolt; and it is "very troublesome to keep upon proper 
terms with them." ^ But in general it is not unjust to enslave 
those fit for nothing better and, if they object, to go to war for 
that purpose. To be a complete citizen and share in the 
government of his city, a man should be free from any servile 
employment. "It is impossible for one who lives the life 
of a mechanic or hired servant to acquire the practice of vir- 
tue." * Now " democracy is government by men of no birth, 
indigent circumstances, and mechanical employments." ^ It is 
comparatively innocuous in a society of peasants or herdsmen, 
but if extended to mechanics it is very bad; " for their lives 
are wretched, nor have they any business with virtue in any- 
thing they do." Such democracy leads to " licentiousness in 

1 Aristotle, Politics, I, ii. 2 jbij^ i y 3 i^y ^ jj^ i^. 

* Ibid., III. V. 6 Ibid.. VL ii. 



wmmm 



44 GREECE IN DECLINE 

slaves, women, and children." ^ A landless free class is a great 
evil, leading to demagogy and to predatory legislation against 
the rich. If democracy there must be, the poor should be 
assisted, " every one of them to purchase a little field, or if 
that cannot be done, at least to procure the implements of 
trade and husbandry." ^ But in a really well-governed State 
no citizen " should be permitted to exercise any mechanical 
employment or follow merchandise, these being ignoble and 
destructive of virtue ; neither should they be peasants." ^ 
Land should be concentrated in the hands of a military and 
ruling class, and cultivated by " slaves, not of the same nation, 
nor men of any spirit ; for so they would be industrious at 
their work and warranted not to attempt any revolution. 
Next to these, barbarian servants are to be preferred." * And, 
in a sentence very topical at the time of writing, Aristotle 
observes that " could the Greeks agree upon one system of 
policy, they could command the whole world " ^ — and pre- 
sumably have all the barbarian slaves they needed. 

This was the idea which, as we have seen, had already 
occurred to Isocrates; the idea with which Philip had con- 
quered Greece; and the idea which Alexander within a few 
years translated into practice. 

1 Aristotle, Politics, VI, iv. « Ibid., VI, v. » Ibid., VII, ix. 
4 Ibid., VII, X. 5 ibid,^ VII, vii. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE WEST GOES EAST 

IT is extraordinary that we have no contemporary account 
of the conquests of Alexander the Great. Although 
authoritative histories of his campaigns were written by 
Ptolemy and other officers who took part in them, they have 
all perished. We are dependent on Diodorus, an incompetent 
compiler who wrote three centuries later; Quintus Curtius, 
equally incompetent and later still; Plutarch, who at least 
names his sources; and Arrian, five hundred years after the 
time, but a Roman governor and military commander who 
knew his subject, used contemporary evidence, and, though 
the latest of our ancient authorities, is also the best. 

The military achievement of Alexander, though the most 
spectacular side of his career, is the least important. His vic- 
tories had been thoroughly prepared. Two generations earlier 
Xenophon had shown that a small Greek force could cut its 
way through Persian armies and hostile tribesmen all the way 
firom Babylonia to the sea. Ever since then Isocrates and half 
Greece had wanted to see the operation repeated in the reverse 
direction. Philip had built up the military machine with 
which to do it. The Persian Empire was a colossus stuffed 
with clouts, held together only by Greek mercenaries whom 
its gold could still buy. Against it were now thrown not only 
Greek troops fresher, more numerous, and better provided 
than those of Xenophon, but the seasoned fighters of Mace- 
donia as well — in particular Alexander's own feudal cavalry, 
which had broken the Greeks at Chaeronea and was to shatter 
the Orientals at the Granicus, Issus, and Gaugamela. Such a 
combination went through the Persian Empire like a knife 
through butter. 

More significant than Alexander's victories is the use which 
he made of them. In the first place, the dream of Aristotle 

45 



m 



46 THE WEST GOES EAST 

was fulfilled : Greece was flooded with barbarian slaves. The 
thirty thousand sold after the fall of Tyre must alone have 
been a noble haul for the dealers. 

In the second place, by assuming the heritage of the old 
Oriental empires, Alexander transformed himself from a 
Macedonian war-chief into a god-king. When the Egyptian 
priests hailed him as the son of the god Amen, they did what 
they had automatically done for their ancient Pharaohs. 
Alexander, their deliverer from Persian oppression, was thus 
proclaimed the legitimate successor of Ahmosi of Thebes, 
their deHverer from Hyksos oppression twelve centuries 
before. 

In the Oriental empires the god-king was an immemorial 
institution. Even in Greece the idea was not wholly alien. 
Many legendary Greek kings (e.g. Agamemnon) had been 
originally gods ; and at the end of the Peloponnesian War, 
when the need of a " saviour of society " was badly felt, some 
cities had voted divine honours to the Spartan conqueror, 
Ly Sander, even in his lifetime. But to the Macedonians, as to 
other northern peoples new to ancient civilization, their king 
was simply a war-chief, and the Oriental king-cult strange and 
offensive. Hence the growing tension between Alexander 
and his personal followers in the later years of his reign, and 
the violent end of Parmenio, Clitus, Callisthenes, and anyone 
else who ventured to cross the god-king. Alexander's last 
years in fact show increasing symptoms of something very like 
mania. His invasion of India was utterly unnecessary and led 
to no solid results. When his army, after following him to 
the Punjab, refused to march farther into the unknown, they 
showed more sense of reality than he. 

But the god-king had come to stay. Neither Alexander 
nor his successors could govern an Oriental empire without 
this business of deification. The Greek cities endorsed it. At 
the end of Alexander's reign they sent to wait on him not 
simply ambassadors, but sacred ambassadors (theoroi), such as 
they would have sent to Olympian Zeus or Delian Apollo. 
After Alexander's death, when his generals fell out and fought 
one another for the spoils of empire, the temporary war-lord 
of Asia, Antigonus, in 307 as a stroke of policy sent his son 



THE WEST GOES EAST 47 

Demetrius to Athens to expel his rival Cassander's Macedonian 
garrison and restore the democracy which had been suppressed 
fifteen years before. The grateful Athenians voted divine 
honours and the title of Saviour (Soter) to both Antigonus and 
Demetrius, changed the festival of Dionysus to one in honour 
of Demetrius, and chanted a hymn containing the lines : 

The other gods dwell far away, 

Or have no ears, 

Or are not, or pay us no heed. 

But thee we present see, 

No god of wood or stone, but godhead true. 

Therefore to thee we pray.^ 

But the day of democracies was over. Greek cities were now 
mere pawns in a strategic game and owed any liberty they had 
to the competition of rival dynasts. Three years later, when 
Demetrius was besieging Rhodes, the Rjiodians owed their 
deliverance to Ptolemy of Egypt, who in his turn was voted 
divine honours and became a saviour. The baffled Demetrius 
earned the nickname of Poliorketes — the great " besieger " 
whose siege had not come off. Three years later again, 
Antigonus fell at Ipsus in battle with rival war-lords, Deme- 
trius beat a retreat, Cassander reoccupied Athens, and no more 
was heard there of the new democracy or the new religion. 
Six years later, in 294, Demetrius recovered Athens, but by 
then he had forgotten about democracy. Rhodes was luckier : 
thanks to Ptolemy (a more efficient war-lord and therefore a 
more reliable " saviour ") she was able to remain independent 
and to grow rich on the roaring trade between East and West 
opened up by the conquests of Alexander. These incidents 
in an otherwise tedious series of dynastic wars illustrate the 
utter discredit which had befallen the old Greek reUgion, and 
its practical supersession by the cult of power-politics em- 
bodied in the god-king. 

The third important feature in the policy of Alexander and 
his successors was the Greek colonization of the East. 
Alexander dotted his empire with numerous Alexandrias, 
from the famous one in Egypt to the remote outpost which 

^ Frazer, The Golden Bough, abridged edition, p. 97. 



48 THE WEST GOES EAST 

perpetuates his name in the still recognizable form of Kandahar. 
His successors left their mark on the map in such new cities as 
Antigonia in Asia Minor, which after the death of Antigonus 
was renamed Nicaea and, as such, was fated to be famous in 
ecclesiastical history; Seleucia in Babylonia, planted by the 
founder of the Seleucid dynasty ; Antioch in Syria, named 
after Antiochus, the father of Seleucus ; Apamea in the same 
region, named after Apama, his wife ; Laodicea on the Syrian 
coast, named after Laodice, his mother, and still flourishing 
today as Latakia; another Laodicea in Asia Minor (that 
mentioned in the New Testament) named after a later Se- 
leucid queen ; and many similar dynastic foundations. These 
cities were peopled by discharged soldiers or fortune-seekers 
from Greece, who formed the citizen body and ran the place, 
while natives of the country provided the hewers of wood 
and drawers of water. The Greeks had found their Eldorado. 
Rich inhabitants of Alexandria, Seleucia, or Antioch lived in a 
luxury unknown to the fellow-citizens of Pericles or Demos- 
thenes; and art, literature, and science found more lavish 
patrons in the Ptolemies and Seleucids than they could ever 
have found in the little states of the Greek homeland. 

But what of the conquered populations? The richer 
natives adopted the Greek language and way of life. There 
was no bar on intermarriage: Alexander and his successors 
alike encouraged it. The Hellenization of the upper classes 
is shown by such cases as those of Manetho, the Egyptian, and 
Berossus, the Babylonian priest, each of whom compiled from 
native records a history of his own country in Greek. Unfor- 
tunately neither survives except in fragments quoted by 
Josephus and later writers. Other examples of Hellenization 
are provided by the Jews of Alexandria, who had to have 
their sacred books translated into Greek, and by the priestly 
.aristocracy of Jerusalem, whose transgressions of the law 
contributed to the Maccabean uprising. Hellenization, how- 
ever, seems to have been an affair of the cities and, within the 
cities, mainly of the richer classes. In the countryside the 
peasantry continued to speak their native tongues — Phrygian, 
Lycaonian, Aramaic, Egyptian, Iranian, as the case might be; 
and the populace in the cities was, at most, bilingual. To the 



THE WEST GOES EAST 49 

native masses the Greek rulers were foreigners who taxed them 
and fought wars over their countries, but whose language and 
culture were alien to them, and to whom they felt no obliga- 
tion and no loyalty. We have but little popular Oriental 
literature of the period to set against the wealth of Greek his- 
torical, poetical, philosophical, and scientific writing which 
has come down to us. But it is significant that, in the little 
we have, the chosen symbol of the conquering power should 
be a wild beast — " terrible and powerful, and strong exceed- 
ingly ; and it had great iron teeth : it devoured and brake in 
pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet: and it was 
diverse from all the beasts that were before it." ^ Still more 
eloquent than the imagery of the Jewish visionary are the facts 
of history — the speed with which, within two centuries of 
Alexander, Greek conquests east of the Euphrates fell to the 
Parthian invader; and the completeness with which, after a 
few more centuries, even the Greek language in the Middle 
East was swamped by Syriac, Coptic, and Arabic. The fmal 
verdict on Hellenistic civilization was pronounced by its 
subjects, who, when it came to the point, lifted no finger to 
save it. 

Not only exploited Orientals felt the new imperialism to be 
vanity and a striving after wind. Among those banished 
from Athens on the suppression of her democracy in 322, and 
restored to citizenship by Demetrius in 307, was a self-taught 
philosopher of modest means named Epicurus. We have 
only fragments of his writings. Our knowledge of his system 
comes mostly from Lucretius; of his life, mostly from 
Diogenes Laertius* Lives of the Philosophers, a late and un- 
critical work which has the redeeming merit of preserving 
three priceless letters of Epicurus himself. This greatest of 
ancient freethinkers turns his back, as it were, in contempt on 
the power-pohtics of his time and on the philosophies which 
try to justify them. In his garden, where men and women, 
freemen and slaves join in equal discussion, he preaches the 
gospel of contentment with little. In conscious reaction 
against the " golden " Plato and in studiedly lucid language, 
Epicurus declares sensation to be the test of truth and 

^ Dan. vii, 7. 



50 THE WEST GOES EAST 

metaphysical speculation superfluous. Sensation tells us that 
matter exists : nothing tells us that anything else does. 
Pleasure by this test being good and pain evil, the wise man 
will cut out of his life those pleasures, such as drunkenness, 
gluttony, and debauchery, which are purchased only by dis- 
proportionate pain. He will eschew the pursuit of power, the 
only purpose of which is to win illusory security and to 
procure satisfactions that never satisfy. As to the gods, im- 
piety consists not in denying the gods of the multitude, but in 
affirming of them what the multitude believes. As to death, 
it is " nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not 
come, and when death is come, we are not." ^ It is per- 
missible to wonder whether Epicurus was not nearer to the 
spirit of Socrates than the latter's professed interpreter, Plato. 
He had his reward. In the suffering Greek world of the third 
century B.C. men flocked to hear him. " Friends," says 
Diogenes on the authority of an earlier biographer, " came to 
him from all parts and lived with him in his garden," ^ not- 
withstanding the extreme simplicity of his entertainment. 
Few who joined the school were ever known to leave it. 

Epicurus declined political problems which in the conditions 
of his day admitted of no satisfying solution. liis rival, 
Zeno, the founder of the Stoics, was more pretentious. Zeno 
was a Hellenized Phoenician of Cyprus who settled in Athens 
towards the end of the fourth century and embraced the 
Cynic gospel of voluntary poverty, which he afterwards de- 
veloped into a more systematic philosophy of his own. None 
of his works are extant ; and it is difficult to disentangle his 
original teaching from the matter added by later Stoics. 
Zeno, like Epicurus, was a materialist and, on paper at least, 
equally contemptuous of the conventional values of Greek 
civilization. In an ideal society, he teaches, there would be 
neither temples, ritual, law-courts, money, nor marriage; 
men and women would live free and equal citizens of the 
world. But since most people are not reasonable, the Stoic 
compromises and accepts, while reserving his private judg- 
ment, the prevailing forms of property, marriage, govern- 
ment, and religion. For him God is another name for 
^ Diogenes Laertius, X, 125. ^ Ibid., 10. 



THE WEST GOES EAST 5I 

nature ; the gods of the State, rightly understood, are but 
aspects of natural law ; and the enlightened, whatever their 
outward circumstances, are free in a world of slaves. This 
detached acquiescence in the world as it was did not prevent 
Stoicism at its best from making notable contributions to 
human progress. But it made Stoicism at its worst a rather 
repulsive kind of cant, and exposed it to justifiable gibes on 
the part of Epicureans who took their anti-religious propa- 
ganda seriously. 



CHAPTER VII 

ROME TAKES OVER 

To the average European or American the outUne of 
Roman history is only a httle less familiar than the 
history of his own country. There is ample reason for 
this. The civilization of modem Europe and America is 
derived from that of Rome. The law of most European 
countries is based on Roman law. Latin remained an inter- 
national language for considerably more than a thousand years 
after the fall of the Roman Empire. It forms the basis of 
many of the vernaculars which have replaced it in common 
speech, and is an important ingredient of others, including our 
own. It is still the official language of the greatest of Christian 
Churches. It is natural that we should regard the ancient 
Romans as cultural ancestors rather than as complete foreigners, 
and their history as a prelude to our own rather than as an 
alien story with which we have nothing to do. 

It is curious, therefore, to reflect that we are without any 
contemporary record of the process by which Rome rose 
from a small Italian city-state to be a great Mediterranean 
power. No Greek historian of the late fourth or third cen- 
tury B.C., the formative period of Roman greamess, has come 
down to us. The Romans themselves did not begin to write 
history until late in the third century, when they had become 
acquainted with Greek literature. Their early histories, 
written in Greek, were based on a mass of fable and on meagre 
temple records, and have mostly perished. Polybius, the last 
great Greek historian, who wrote in the second century B.C., 
when Roman predominance in the Mediterranean was an 
accomplished fact, is our first extant contemporary wimess 
(and an invaluable one) to Roman affairs. Livy, the only 
other extant ancient historian of the rise of Rome, wrote 
almost at the date of the Christian era, and for the early period 

52 



ROME TAKES OVER 53 

relied on the largely fabulous works of his predecessors. 
Most of his history has perished ; and the portion which sur- 
vives, while briUiant in style, shows partiahty, inaccuracy, and 
an entire incapacity to criticize his sources. The gaps in 
Polybius and Livy have to be supplied by Plutarch, who is 
later than either and is in any case a biographer first and a 
historian second. 

It follows that for early Roman history — that is, for the 
period prior to the furst direct contact between Rome and the 
Greek world — we are obliged to distrust our Hterary sources. 
Romulus and the other early kings are conventional saga- 
heroes. We know from archaeology that Rome was a walled 
city as long ago as the sixth century B.C. This takes us back 
to a time when, according to Greek historians, the Etruscans 
were the dominant power in northern and central Italy, and 
corroborates the tradition that at that date Rome was ruled by 
Etruscan kings. But the traditional designation of those 
kings (Tarquin) is a title, not a personal name; and the 
stories told of them are fabulous — some being lifted bodily 
by Roman annahsts from incidents related by Herodotus of 
Greek or Persian worthies. We know that about the end of 
the sixth century Etruscan power declined ; and it is probable 
that Rome and other Latin cities then won their independence. 
But the exact date, 509 B.C., assigned to the expulsion of the 
Tarquins may be due to no more than a wish to synchronize 
the foundation of the Roman repubhc with that of the 
Athenian democracy. The early history of the repubUc is 
httle more reHable than that of the kings. On Livy's showing 
most of the temple and other records, including the famous 
Twelve Tables, perished when Rome was sacked and burnt 
by the Gauls in 390 b.c.^ The earlier narrative, therefore, 
cannot be regarded as more than an ingenious romance, con- 
taining perhaps here and there a nugget of factual tradition, 
such as a well-known war or the consecration of a temple. 
Once the catastrophe of 390 is behind us, Livy's account of 
the estabhshment of Roman power in central Italy during the 
fourth century may be accepted with the reserve which we 

^We have no guarantee that the Twelve Tables later in use were an 
exact reproduction of the law of the early republic. 



54 ROME TAKES OVER 

inevitably attach to a historian for whom his country's wars 
are always just and always in the end successful. 

In the opening years of the third century we reach the first 
long gap in the text of Livy. A little later Rome becomes 
inextricably involved in the affairs of the Greek cities of 
southern Italy. In default of Livy we are dependent on 
Plutarch for the story of this dramatic encounter between the 
old and the new. 

A generation has passed since the death of Alexander the 
Great. His empire has been finally partitioned between 
Ptolemy in Egypt, Seleucus in Asia, Lysimachus in Thrace, 
and Demetrius the Besieger in Macedonia and Greece proper. 
But Demetrius has the misfortune to possess a restless young 
brother-in-law and rival in Pyrrhus, king of Epirus. In 288 
Pyrrhus and Lysimachus drive out Demetrius and partition 
Macedonia between them. Two years later Lysimachus drives 
out Pyrrhus, and the latter's dream of becoming a successor to 
Alexander is momentarily ended. 

Hardly, however, is the door banged, barred, and bolted 
against Pyrrhus in the east, when an apparently unlimited 
opportunity of adventure opens to him in the west. In 281 
he receives an embassy from Tarentum, the wealthiest and 
most powerful of the Greek cities in Italy. Tarentum has 
long had trouble with the half-civilized Italian tribes of the 
interior. To cope with these she allied herself twenty years 
ago with Rome, the rising new power in central Italy. But 
Rome's price proves to be too high : in return for protection 
she now demands submission. No self-respecting Greek 
democracy will stand for that. In fact, the Tarentines have 
already answered the question by attacking a Roman fleet 
which entered their harbour uninvited. Will Pyrrhus, a 
Greek in race and language, kindly intervene to save Greek 
freedom in Italy ? 

Here is a chance indeed for Pyrrhus. Neither Alexander 
nor any of his successors ever crossed the Adriatic. By 
accepting the Tarentine invitation Pyrrhus hopes not only to 
defeat Rome, but also to push on into Sicily, champion the 
Sicilian Greeks against their hereditary enemy Carthage, con- 
quer both Carthage herself and her dependencies in Africa, 



ROME TAKES OVER 55 

Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearics, and end up with 
as mighty an empire in the West as any of Alexander's 
successors in the East. 

Leaving the eastern war-lords to their feuds, Pyrrhus in 
280 crosses to Italy with his army and his elephants — since 
Alexander, an indispensable arm in first-class war and as 
great an innovation then as the tank in our day. He garrisons 
Tarentum and, thanks to his elephants, defeats the Ronians at 
Heraclea. All the Greek cities of Italy now join him; and 
in 279 he advances on Rome. But the Latin alliance holds 
firm ; and Pyrrhus (since he does not want to waste time and 
men in Italy before striking west) offers Rome terms. She is 
to leave southern Italy alone and to be content henceforth 
with her hegemony in Latium. To his amazement the senate, 
rallied by old Appius Claudius (first of the authentic Roman 
empire-builders), rejects his terms and demands his uncon- 
ditional evacuation of Italy. In 278 Pyrrhus again routs the 
Romans at Asculum; but still they keep the field. Heraclea 
and Asculum have been " Pyrrhic " victories; the novelty of 
elephants is wearing off; and Pyrrhus cannot afford to go on 
losing men. He patches up a truce and moves on to Sicily to 
fight Carthage. But the Sicihan Greeks do not welcome 
him, and Carthage concludes an alliance with Rome against 
him. Foiled here, too, he returns to Italy in 276 (leaving 
Sicily, in his own words, to be "a prize-ring for Rome and 
Carthage "), finds his allies disgusted by his desertion, and 
next year is catastrophically defeated by the Romans at Bene- 
ventum. He returns to Epirus, leaving Rome mistress of 
Italy ; tries to repair his losses in Macedonia and Greece ; and 
in 272 is killed, like the Biblical Abimelech, by a tile hurled by 
a woman in the streets of Argos. 

It is said that no less a judge than Hannibal reckoned 
Pyrrhus a general superior to himself and second only 
to Alexander. If so, his military ability was nullified 
by a political folly which amounted to megalomania. 
" To one thing constant never," he failed in every one 
of his undertakings and, for sheer futility, beats all con- 
temporary war-lords — not excepting his brother-in-law 
Demetrius. 



56 ROME TAKES OVER 

The predicted prize-fight in Sicily was not long in coming. 
For most of the period of the Punic Wars we enjoy the ines- 
timable guidance of Polybius — the first extant historian after 
Thucydides to approach his task in a scientific spirit. Bom at 
Megalopolis in Arcadia not long before the end of the Second 
Punic War, he grew up during the first stages of Roman 
intervention in Greece proper, and was himself a leading 
advocate of collaboration with Rome against Macedon. He 
spent the middle years of his life in Rome as a hostage for the 
good behaviour of his countrymen, and became the friend of 
leading Roman statesmen. Released in due course from this 
merely nominal captivity, he lived to be an eye-witness in 
146 B.C. of the fmal destruction of Carthage and to see Greece 
too, after a last vain revolt, pass under direct Roman rule. 
The purpose of his history (completed after 146) is to demon- 
strate to his fellow-Greeks, in the spirit of a Stoic philosopher, 
the chain of causes and effects by which a little-known Italian 
state had in a short space of time become mistress of the 
Mediterranean world. Unfortunately only fragments survive 
of his later books, and we have to make do with the far less 
trustworthy Livy. 

Between the two protagonists, Rome and Carthage, Poly- 
bius tries to hold an even balance, and on the whole succeeds. 
It is not an easy task ; for no civilized man, not himself a 
Carthaginian, could have desired the victory of Carthage. 
The Phoenician founders of Kart-hadasht ('* new city ") had 
brought to it from their homeland a tradition of daring 
commercial enterprise coupled with ruthless cruelty ('* at 
Carthage,'* says Polybius, " no one is blamed however he 
may have acquired his wealth ") and a religion of which a 
regular feature was the burning of children in sacrifice to the 
fertility god, Baal-Hamman. Late in their history the upper 
class at Carthage seem to have acquired a veneer of Greek 
culture ; but it was never more than skin-deep. The invective 
of Jewish prophets against Tyre, " the renowned city . . . 
strong in the sea, she and her inhabitants, which caused their 
terror to be on all that haunt it," which traded her merchandise 
for " the persons of men," and profaned her sanctuaries with 
a multitude of iniquities, may be transferred without alteration 



ROME TAKES OVER 57 

to her daughter-city, Carthage.^ The Greeks of the fifth 
and fourth centuries and the Romans of the third century B.C. 
who arrested Carthaginian expansion in the West undoubtedly 
won a battle for future civilization. 

On the other hand, Rome did not enter the struggle with 
clean hands. She had not hesitated to ally herself with Carthage 
to secure her empire in Italy. Once that end was achieved, 
Rome in 264 B.C. turned on her ally and seized Messana 
(Messina) with a cool perfidy which sheds a curious light on 
the charges of" Punic faith " levelled at Carthage by Livy and 
other Latin writers. The First Punic War was an act of naked 
aggression on the part of Rome. It succeeded because the 
mercenaries of Carthage were no match for the citizen- 
soldiers of Rome, and because there was nothing about 
Carthage which could induce her subjects to make any sacri- 
fice on her account. The most famous episode of the war is 
the all-but-successful invasion of Africa by Regulus in 256 
and his defeat and capture by the Carthaginians a year later. 
It is significant that Carthage had to employ a Greek mercenary, 
the Spartan Xanthippus, to cope with Regulus. The story 
(immortalized in an ode of Horace) of Regulus* peace mission 
to Rome, his heroic sabotage of the negotiations, and his 
execution by torture on his return to Carthage rests entirely 
on Roman authority. It may be true, or it may be an early 
example of atrocity propaganda. Nothing known of Cartha- 
ginian or Roman usages excludes either alternative; but the 
silence of Polybius makes the tale suspect. Rome emerged 
from the First Punic War in 241 mistress of Sicily and richer 
by a handsome indemnity, while Carthage had to face a for- 
midable mutiny of her unpaid mercenaries, and was unable to 
stop Rome from occupying Sardinia and Corsica two years 
later. 

For the Second Punic War we are able to compare the 
detachment of Polybius with the partiality of Livy, whose 
history is again extant from this point onward. The im- 
pression we get is that of a one-man war doomed to failure 
from the start. Hannibal was one of the greatest soldiers of 
all time. The idea of marching through Spain and Gaul, 
^ Ezek. xxvi, 17; xxvii, 13 ; xxviii, 18. 



58 ROME TAKES OVER 

taking Rome in the rear, and raising Italy against her seems 
to have been entirely his own, and might have succeeded if 
he had had a national army and an honest and competent 
government behind him. But the Carthaginian merchant- 
princes fought their wars by proxy. Hannibal set out in 218 
with an army of African and Spanish mercenaries, half of 
whom were lost by the time he had crossed the Alps. Success 
depended on his receiving the necessary reinforcements from 
Carthage and winning the Italians to his side. But Carthage 
gave him little or no support; and though the southern 
Italians joined him in 216 after Cannae, Rome's allies in central 
Italy remained faithful. Hannibal had to hold out in isolation 
for thirteen years while Rome put her last man into the field 
and slowly wore him down. His fmal hope disappeared when 
his younger brother, Hasdrubal, who had marched overland 
from Spain to relieve him, was cut off and killed in 207 at the 
river Metaurus. Meanwhile Rome threw up a leader of 
genius in Scipio Africanus and, unlike Carthage, had the sense 
to back her man when she had found him. Applying Hanni- 
baFs strategy in reverse, he drove Carthage out of Spain, 
carried the war into Africa, forced Carthage to recall Hanni- 
bal, and at Zama in 202 ended her as a great power and turned 
the whole western Mediterranean into a Latin lake. 

From that day onward Rome was the foremost power in 
the ancient world. But, as the sequel showed, she paid a 
formidable price for victory. During the long war Italian 
agriculture went to pieces, and Rome escaped starvation only 
by importing food from Sicily, Sardinia, and Egypt. The 
Italian peasantry never recovered from the blow. When 
agriculture revived, it was on a basis of slave labour, which 
was imported into Italy en masse during a series of victorious 
campaigns. Thus the population of Italy and of Rome itself 
gradually changed its composition. The situation in fourth- 
century Greece was reproduced on a magnified scale in 
second-century Italy. Instead of Latin, Sabine, or Etruscan 
peasants or artisans tilling their own land or plying their own 
craft, Italy was flooded with Greek, African, Spanish, Celtic, 
and Oriental slaves who tilled large estates and discharged 
all the menial offices for the Roman plutocracy, while the 



ROME TAKES OVER 59 

native peasantry sank deeper and deeper in debt and finally 
were squeezed off their farms to drift to the cities or seek their 
fortune in the legions. And with the influx of Oriental 
slaves began the infiltration of Oriental religions. In the 
last years of the Second Punic War, in obedience to a con- 
veniently discovered Sibylline oracle, the cult of the great 
mother-goddess of Asia Minor was introduced into Rome. 
That this was not just panicky superstition, but calculated 
pohcy, is shown by the fact that Roman citizens were for- 
bidden to take part in the cult. The intention was evidently 
to conciliate the mass of slaves, freedmen, and other aliens 
who formed a growing part of the city's population and whom 
it was important to keep quiet at a time when Rome had a 
foreign invader on her hands in Italy. But this was an un- 
usual step. Some years later, in i86 B.C., the senate pro- 
hibited the worship of Dionysus (or Bacchus) at Rome even 
by private persons. As in Greece, so in Italy, the best people 
were reluctant to tolerate the worship of alien gods with its 
possibihties of unlawful association. Only in a war crisis was 
the embargo relaxed. 

Of Roman history in the second century B.C. we have no 
contemporary account except for fragments of the later 
books of Poly bins, which do not carry us beyond 146. The 
extant books of Livy peter out in 167, the year in which Rome 
conquered Macedonia and augmented her labour-force in 
Italy by the sale of one hundred and fifty thousand slaves. 
After that we know Livy only through the work of epitomizers 
who wrote centuries later. For further knowledge we are 
dependent on Plutarch and Appian, who lived two to three 
hundred years after the events, but are valuable in so far as 
they embody contemporary material inaccessible to us; on 
miscellaneous allusions in other late authors; and on the not 
unimportant evidence of inscriptions and coins. The essential 
facts which emerge are the transformation of Rome from 
an expanding city-state into a bloated slave-empire; the 
growth of corruption at home and extortion abroad; the 
destruction in one year (146) of Rome's two principal com- 
mercial rivals, Carthage and Corinth, and the sale of their 
surviving inhabitants into slavery; the sharpening class 



60 ROME TAKES OVER 

Struggle in Italy between the rich landowners and the im- 
poverished peasants ; and the violent opposition of the sena- 
torial nobility to any attempt at reform — an opposition which, 
in the case of the two Gracchi and others, did not stick at 
murder and which, as time went on, made revolution in- 
evitable. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

NOT until the last century B.C. are we again able to read 
Roman history in the light of contemporary sources. 
Chief among these are the speeches, letters, and other 
writings of Cicero, supplemented by the Commentaries of 
Caesar, the two short tracts (slightly later, but still contem- 
porary) of Sallust, and the life of Atticus by Nepos. 

Cicero was bom at Arpinum of well-to-do parents in 
io6 B.C. He spent his youth, like most wealthy Romans of 
that age, in studying as much Greek philosophy, rhetoric, and 
general literature as he could put to practical use, and at 
twenty-five began to practise in the Roman courts. During 
these years the class struggle in Rome and Italy was at its 
height. The senatorial nobility, after disposing of the Gracchi, 
had been forced to utilize the services of the democrat Marius 
to see them through two serious military crises and to replace 
the citizen-army, which had decayed with the decay of the 
peasantry, by a long-term professional soldiery. A few 
years later an uprising of their Italian allies forced the senate 
to extend Roman citizenship to the free population of most 
of Italy. Next year (88 B.C.) Mithridates of Pontus profited 
by the hatred provoked by Roman oppression in Asia Minor 
and Greece to make liimself temporarily master of the eastern 
provinces. In this extremity, sooner than see Marius again 
at the head of an army, the senate gave the command to his 
aristocratic rival Sulla. There followed seven years of civil 
convulsion, in which Marius and Sulla alternately massacred 
each other's supporters, followed in 8 1 by the dictatorship 
of Sulla in the senatorial interest. Even after his retirement 
and death it was clear to all who had eyes to see that the 
Roman republic had ceased to exist save by leave of the army. 

6i 



I 



62 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

It is a striking example of the blindness which can go with 
a purely literary education that Cicero to the end of his Ufe 
never learnt this lesson. During the years after Sulla's death, 
when Cicero was building up his reputation at the bar, the 
senatorial regime was protected by the legions of Sulla's lieu- 
tenant, Pompey. For five years Pompey was engaged in 
fighting the revolutionary Sertorius in Spain. How near 
the regime was to utter overthrow was revealed in 73-71, 
when, in Pompey' s absence, the gladiator Spartacus, at the 
head of seventy thousand runaway slaves and impoverished 
peasants, kept the troops of Rome at bay in Italy for two 
whole years. Finally Spartacus was kiUed in battle with 
Crassus, leaving six thousand of his men to line the Appian 
Way on crosses. Yet Cicero seems never to have doubted 
the possibility or desirability of that minority of well-to-do 
Italians, to which he himself belonged, continuing indefinitely, 
under republican forms, to dominate and exploit the Medi- 
terranean world by such methods as these. His first pohtical 
speech, in 66 B.C., in which he supports the transfer to Pompey 
of the supreme command in the war against Mithridates, 
together with unlimited authority in all the eastern provinces 
and the right of declaring war and concluding alliances at his 
discretion, betrays no consciousness of the fact that he is 
actually making Pompey a dictator. But, while indifferent 
how much power is given to a man deemed (wrongly as it 
turned out) to be loyal to the senate, Cicero reacts with the 
ferocity of his class everywhere and always against any sign 
of unconstitutional action by the left. 

A naive acceptance of Cicero's version of events led to the 
popularization, from the Renaissance to the nineteenth cen- 
tury, of a distorted view of the revolution which put an end 
to the Roman republic. On this view, sedulously propa- 
gated by Cicero and perpetuated by later writers who took 
their facts from him, the revolution was a tragic triumph of 
vice over virtue. As late as the eighteenth century " Cati- 
line " was the synonym for a murderous conspirator, " Caesar " 
for an ambitious and crafty tyrant, *' Cato " for a disinterested 
defender of liberty, and " Brutus " for a heroic tyrannicide. 
Under the cross-examination of modem scholarship this story 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 63 

dissolves into a legend. Cicero can be called in evidence 
against himself. Besides making speeches, he wrote three 
treatises on the art of rhetoric. Among the qualifications 
which he considers necessary in an orator, strict veracity does 
not figure ; and he certainly did not practise it. If we are to 
beheve his speeches of 63 B.C. against Catiline, that opponent 
was an inveterate profligate and cut-throat who, as the cUmax 
to a career of crime, plotted to bum down Rome and came 
to a bad end which he had merited many years earlier. Yet 
we know from Cicero's letters that as late as 65 B.C. he thought 
of defending Catiline in court and even of running in double 
harness with him for the consulship. In a speech made when 
Catiline had long been dead, Cicero tells us that he had the 
makings of a very fine man, that that very fact made him 
dangerous, and that he had all but deceived Cicero himself. 
So versatile a witness should not be taken too seriously. 

The fact was that with Pompey, their only general, away 
in the East, the senatorial nobility were in a shaky position 
and knew it. The recent revolt of Spartacus had shown them 
on what a volcano they were living. The land of Italy was 
being ruined by slave cultivation. The last free peasants were 
being driven to the wall and starved off their holdings. The 
danger was that the two classes of the oppressed, the slaves 
and the free, would join to make an end of the land-grabbing 
nobles and usurious financiers who called themselves the 
" repubhc." Something had to be done to redistribute 
property and to broaden the basis of citizenship if Rome was 
to survive. A minority of the ruling class tempered their 
self-interest with enough enlightenment to see the need of 
anticipating revolution by reform. But on the whole the 
men in possession, the " army of the well-to-do " as Cicero 
complacently calls them,^ were resolved to do nothing. 
Naturally enough, the consequence of their obstruction was 
first an abortive and finally an actual revolution. In 63 B.C. 
Cicero, having been elected consul over the head of Catiline, 
successfully opposed a bill for the purchase and distribution 
of land among the poorer citizens. We still have the speech 
in which he denounces the commissioners who were to 
^ Letters to Atticus, i, 19, 4. 



I 



64 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

superintend the scheme as "ten kings." ^ Constitutional 
reform being blocked, people turned to desperate remedies. 
Catiline stood for the consulship again and rallied the poorer 
classes in Rome and Italy by proposing the cancellation of 
debts. The history of the last seventy years had shown that 
the authors of such projects were apt to come to violent ends; 
and Catiline was prepared to give blow for blow. He was 
narrowly defeated at the poll and, assailed by Cicero in the 
senate with a whirlwind of invective, fled from Rome to join 
the small army of discharged soldiers, impoverished peasants, 
and slaves which he had collected. His chief partisans in the 
city, left to themselves, lost their nerve, and in less than a 
month were arrested and executed by order of the senate. 
Early in 62 Catiline fell fighting bravely at the head of his 
men. 

So ended the abortive revolution. For a little while 
Cicero was able to posture as the man who had saved Rome, 
and even to write a poem (the loss of which we need not 
regret) on his exploits as consul. But Nemesis was swift. 
In 61 Pompey returned from the East. In five years he had 
added more territory to the Roman Empire than any general 
since Scipio Africanus. We have no contemporary account 
of Pompey' s campaigns ; and their history has to be pieced 
together from the geographer Strabo, who wrote at second 
hand, and from such later sources as Josephus, Plutarch, 
Appian, and Dio. Pompey had put Mithridates to flight and 
founded new Greek cities in his dominions; he had carried 
the Roman arms to the Caucasus; he had annexed Syria; 
he had intervened in a Jewish civil war, stormed Jerusalem, 
and penetrated its Holy of Holies ; he had accepted money 
and homage from Ptolemy XI of Egypt, the last successor of 
Alexander now left on a throne; and with it all he had 
amassed treasure by the million, slaves by the hundred 
thousand, and a prestige which dwarfed that of all the god- 
kings added together since Alexander. He came back to 
fmd his demands for the resettlement of his veterans and the 
ratification of his acts in Asia blocked by the senate. Pompey 
was no revolutionist. He had done the senate good service, 
^ On the Agrarian Law, ii, 6, 15. 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 65 

and he would do them good service again. But first he 
would show them who was master. To this end he took 
into his counsels two men whom he thought he could use. 
One was his old colleague and rival Crassus, whose enormous 
wealth, derived from speculation in land, houses, and slaves, 
made him a useful ally. The other was Gains Juhus Caesar. 
As with all great men, so with Caesar we must carefully 
distinguish fact from legend. Ancient and modem historians, 
writing in the Hght of the event, have been apt to view 
Caesar's whole career as one long preparation for the dic- 
tatorial power which he eventually wielded. Plutarch and 
Suetonius, for example, writing more than a century and a 
half after Caesar's death, attribute to Sulla an impossible 
prophecy that there were " many Marii in Caesar," and this 
at a time when Caesar was at most twenty-one years old.^ 
Obviously it is the kind of prediction which gossip would 
invent in after years. The fact is that until middle life Caesar 
must have been less interested in power than in personal 
survival. In the words of Guglielmo Ferrero (a severe critic 
of Caesar), " the man whom almost all modem historians 
naively regard as resolved from his earliest youth to under- 
take, single-handed, the government of the world, and whose 
Hfe is described as a continuous and calculated effort towards 
the supreme goal of his ambition, had . . . more than any 
other distinguished man of his time been exposed to the 
merciless buffeting of events." ^ He was suspect to the 
ruling party from the very start as the nephew of Marius and 
the son-in-law of the Marian Cinna. That a young man so 
circumstanced should have defied the command of Sulla to 
divorce his wife proves both his conjugal devotion and his 
courage. When we add that on his first military campaign he 
was awarded the " civic crown " (the Roman equivalent of 
the Victoria Cross), that on later campaigns his physical 
endurance was notorious, that his soldiers were fanatically 
devoted to him, and that not even his worst enemy denied 

^ According to the traditional chronology Caesar was born in 100 B.C. ; 
but there are good reasons for dating his birth in 102. The alleged pre- 
diction was in 81. 

2 Ferrero, The Greatness and Decline of Rome, vol. I, chap, xviii. 



66 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

his temperance in diet,^ we shall rate at their true value the 
charge of sexual inversion and the taunt, " every woman's 
man and every man's woman," hurled at him by a rancorous 
senator in the heat of debate.^ The senate had no Speaker 
to call honorable members to order. Such stories tell us 
nothing of the character of Caesar, but much of the venom of 
party passion in the last years of the Roman republic. 

Up to his thirtieth year, Caesar, apart from his scrape with 
Sulla, was chiefly engaged in military service and in the study 
of Greek oratory and Greek science. His rhetorical training 
placed him, by the admission even of his rival Cicero, second 
to none among the public speakers of the day. Disinterested 
scientific curiosity was a far rarer trait in the Roman world. 
The great age of ancient science, the age of Euclid, Aris- 
tarchus, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, and Hipparchus, was 
over. Scientific progress depends on experiment; and a 
society in which all manual work is done by slaves is more 
favourable to armchair philosophy than to physical discovery. 
Caesar is one of the few Romans recorded to have taken any 
interest in Greek science. Perhaps we may attribute to that 
the total absence of superstition which Suetonius numbers 
among his leading traits. It was certainly calculated to make 
him impatient with men who could let a mihtary operation 
depend on the look of a victim's entrails or could stop pubhc 
business by hauling down a flag. Nevertheless there is no 
contemporary evidence that before his consulship Caesar had 
any thought of dictatorial power. The senatorial party, who 
hated him as he never hated them, would have been glad to 
see Caesar involved with Catiline. He opposed the execution 
of the revolutionary leaders at considerable risk to himself, 
but otherwise kept in the background. In fact during these 
years Caesar was only in the second rank of politicians, less 
powerful than Crassus and far less powerful than Pompey. 
Had the two older men deemed him capable of becoming 

^ Cato is said to have described Caesar as " the only man who undertook 
to overthrow the State sober." Suetonius, /w//m5, LIII. 

^ Suetonius adduces as evidence for the charge a bantering song sung 
by soldiers at Caesar's triumph. Such evidence will impress no one 
acquainted vnth the sort of songs soldiers sing even in our refined age. 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 67 

their rival, they would assuredly themselves have taken the 
consulship in 59 instead of putting him forward. 

The events of 59 turned Caesar into a revolutionist in spite 
of himself. They showed him, firstly, that the senatorial 
nobiHty were impervious to reason on the question of land 
reform and, secondly, that they were helpless when tackled 
by a man without superstition and with the army on his side. 
He began his consulship by enacting that the proceedings of 
the senate and the popular assembly should be pubhshed from 
day to day. This record, posted in pubUc places in Rome 
under the title of Acta Diurna, was the first newspaper known 
to history. Having thus ensured the maximum pubhcity 
for his measures, he brought in a bill, very similar to that 
rejected in 63, for the purchase and distribution of land to 
discharged soldiers and poorer citizens. The senate, as usual, 
resorting to obstruction, Caesar called in Pompey and his 
veterans and carried the bill over the heads of the senate by a 
vote of the people. The other consul, Bibulus, who declared 
the omens unfavourable to the conduct of public business, and 
the proceedings, therefore, null and void, was contemptuously 
ignored; and further measures agreeable to Caesar, Pompey, 
and Crassus were voted by popular acclamation. The senate 
found itself prisoner to a " three-headed monster " against 
which there was no appeal. 

Caesar had now taken his first revolutionary step. He 
could not count indefmitely on the support of two such 
natural conservatives as Pompey and Crassus. To avoid the 
fate of the Gracchi and of Catiline it was necessary that on 
quitting office he should have an army behind him. This 
Caesar achieved by having the proconsulship of Gaul ^ voted to 
himself. It was further necessary to prevent the senate from 
upsetting these arrangements behind his back. Caesar there- 
fore alhed himself with the raffish young aristocratic dema- 
gogue, Clodius, and through his agency introduced the free 
distribution of com to the poorer citizens. Further, they 
were allowed to combine freely in guilds (collegia), thus creating 

^ I.e. Cisalpine Gaul in northern Italy, plus the transalpine province of 
GaUia Narbonensis (modem Provence and Languedoc). The rest of Gaul 
was not Roman until conquered by Caesar. 



68 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

a permanent democratic organization in opposition to the 
senate. Finally, Cicero having refused Caesar's offer of a 
place on his staff in Gaul, Clodius was allowed to drive him 
into exile and outlawry for his illegal execution of the Cati- 
linarians four years before. Having thus robbed the senate 
of its authority and its ablest leader, Caesar in 58 left for his 
province. 

Caesar has himself told us the story of his conquest of Gaul 
and of the events which led to his dictatorship. The Gallic 
War is the simple, unadorned, impersonal narrative of a seven 
years' war by the chief actor in it. If Cicero had had the 
telling of it, we can imagine how he would have embroidered 
and embellished it, how he would have lauded himself and 
disparaged his adversaries. Caesar at least paints himself, as 
Cromwell would have said, " warts and all." He left the 
work unfmished, the last of the eight books being added by his 
officer Hirtius. In many respects it is not a pretty story. 
We cannot help recoiling as we are coolly told that fifty- 
three thousand of the Aduatuci (a Belgic tribe) were sold as 
slaves to the dealers who accompanied the army; that the 
people of the Veneti (round the modem town of Vannes) 
were similarly treated ; that a rebellious chief of the Senones 
(round Sens) was flogged to death; that at Avaricum 
(Bourges) the entire population was massacred; and that at 
Uxellodunum (Puy d'Issolu), where the Gauls made their 
last stand in 51, all prisoners had their right hands cut off. 
This last we learn from Hirtius. Caesar was not more cruel 
than other ancient conquerors. Alexander and many other 
empire-builders had been as bad. But in Caesar's case his 
generosity to opponents at Rome contrasts violently with his 
ruthless application of the rules of war in Gaul. The fact is 
that we are here faced with one of the salient contradictions 
of Roman history. Italy was being ruined by slave labour. 
Caesar knew, as every enlightened man knew, that the future 
of Rome depended on the revival of free agriculture. It was 
one of the chief objects of his domestic policy. Yet he could 
not afford to be less successful in the West than Pompey in the 
East. For a century and more the main criterion of success 
at Rome had been the acquisition of new lands, new loot, 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 69 

and new human chattels. So in the course of his Gallic 
campaigns Caesar flooded Italy, just as Pompey and earher 
conquerors had done, with hundreds of thousands of slaves, 
whose importation made the revival of free agriculture 
impossible. 

Li extenuation we must remember that Gaul, when invaded 
by Caesar, was not a free country. The aborigines, the little 
dark people known as Iberian, whose blood still flows in 
the veins of most Frenchmen and whose language may survive 
in Basque, had centuries before been reduced to serfdom 
(except in the extreme south-west) by tall, blonde Celtic and 
Belgic invaders from over the Rhine. The aristocracy treated 
their serfs as barbaric aristocracies usually do ; and, while the 
nobility were quickly civihzed and Romanized, the peasant 
mass (apart from those sold into slavery) were probably no 
worse off for the change of masters. We may doubt, indeed, 
whether the status and way of hfe of the Gallic peasantry 
altered very much from Caesarian times to the Revolution of 
1789. They changed their lords, their language, their religion, 
and their name, but not their serfdom. 

Of special interest to us is Caesar's account of his invasion 
of Britain. In the course of conquering Gaul it came to his 
notice that British tribes were sending help to their kinsmen 
across the Channel. He therefore led two punitive expedi- 
tions to the island, and on the second occasion (54 B.C.) 
penetrated north of the Thames. Considered as a mihtary 
operation, the expedition was a fiasco ; for the tribute which he 
imposed was never paid or enforced. But it estabhshed 
regular contact between Mediterranean civilization and Britain, 
which until then had been barely " on the map." ^ Caesar 
therefore writes of Britain not as a conqueror, but as an 
explorer and with the disinterested curiosity of a student 
of Greek science. He tells his readers of a country even 
more barbaric than Gaul. Only the south grows com and 
has a veneer of civilization. The midlanders are hunters and 
herdsmen, ignorant of agriculture and clad in skins. As to 
marriage, " ten or twelve men, usually the brothers of a 

^ The voyage of Pytheas of Marseilles in the time of Alexander had never 
been followed up. 



70 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

family, or fathers and sons, have wives in common; the 
children, however, are reckoned to belong to him who first 
cohabited with the mother/'^ The similarity of this ancient 
British custom to the punaluan or group marriage discovered 
by Lewis H. Morgan in Hawaii in the nineteenth century is 
obvious, and renders inexcusable Andrew Lang's doubt 
whether it ever existed as an institution.^ 

The Roman upper class were far less interested in such 
matters than in the chances of freeing themselves from the 
grip of the " three-headed monster." So long as Pompey 
and Caesar held together there was no hope. " The two 
* in-laws ' [socer generque) have ruined everything," ran the 
saying in the smart set, in allusion to Pompey's union with 
Caesar's daughter Julia. We have a miniature picture of 
Roman society at this time and its attitude to its rulers in the 
lyrics of Catullus, all written between 62 or 61 B.C. and his 
death in 54 at the age of thirty. They include some of the 
loveliest and some of the fdthiest verses in all literature. 
Nothing could be lovelier than his lyrics to " Lesbia " (in 
real life Clodia, the dissipated sister of the demagogue 
Clodius), the elegy on his dead brother, or the poem which 
celebrates his home-coming from provincial drudgery to his 
beloved Sirmio on the lake of Garda, and which in its turn 
inspired one of the loveliest poems of Tennyson.^ Nothing 
could be more disgusting, less poetical, or less witty than the 
lampoons of Catullus on his rivals. One feels that a society 
which could enjoy such dull garbage did not deserve freedom. 
His choicest abuse is aimed at Caesar and his engineer officer 
Mamurra, who, besides making a pile in Gaul, seems to have 
crossed Catullus in some love affair. It is characteristic of 
Caesar that he rewarded this young gentleman of Verona, who 
had lampooned him in the language of the stews, with an 
invitation to dinner. 

A more measured attack on the power-politics of the day 
is found in the didactic poem of Lucretius, the great Epi- 
curean, who was some years older than Catullus and died a 

^ Caesar, Gallic War, v, 14. 

2 Encyclopcedia Britannica, thirteenth edition, article " Family." 

^ Tennyson, Frater Ave Atque Vale. 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 7I 

little before him. We know no details of the life of Lu- 
cretius. The silly story that he wrote his poem in the lucid 
intervals of insanity induced by a love-philtre can be dis- 
missed with the contempt which it deserves. Though a 
Roman and probably a patrician, he is significantly silent on 
the subject of Roman greatness. His poem On the Nature of 
Things breathes a horror of war and cruelty, and a burning 
hatred of the rehgion which was used to justify them. His 
nearest approach to a faith is a natural piety towards the hfe- 
process, which he personifies as Alma Venus in the opening 
lines of his poem. But on priestcraft, as a prompter of evil 
deeds, he declares uncompromising war. Those who think 
his denunciation of the legendary sacrifice of Iphigenia strained 
and rhetorical must remember that in his time human sacri- 
fices were still offered in some parts of the Roman Empire. 
Against official rehgion he pits the Epicurean doctrine that hfe 
is of natural origin and death, its necessary end, not to be feared. 
From ignorance of this simple truth arises the mad struggle 
for power. 

Pitiful souls of men ! O hearts all blind and unseeing ! 

Lo, how deep is the darkness of life, how great are the dangers 

Ringing your fill of days ! Why see ye not that for nature 

One thing alone is needful, that pain be kept from the body 

And that the soul rejoice and be free from sorrows and terrors ? . . . 

Nor will the body the sooner be quit of a fiery fever, 

Tossed on a purple couch with rich embroidery woven, 

Than on a humble bed with a threadbare coverlet o'er thee. 

Since, then, for bodily weal no hoarded treasure availeth — 

No, nor the pride of rank can avail, nor the glory of empire — 

Think not by such toys that the soul is profited either. 

Say that before thine eyes the field is ahve with legions 

Aping the pomp of war and marching in mimic manoeuvre — 

Strong reserves in the rear, and on each flank cavalry stationed — 

Marshalled in goodly array and moving as one to thy order : 

Canst thou, for all this show, thy soul from rehgion dehver. 

Scaring its ghost from thy heart ? Art free from fear of thy ending ? 

Hast thou a care-free breast and a mind all empty of terror, 

Seeing thy fleet sail forth and deploy itself on the waters ? 

Nay, but we know these shows are a mockery all and a plaything. 

Truly the fears of man and the cares that shadow his pathway 

Yield not to clashing of arms or to lethal onset of arrows. 

Neither regard they the king on his throne nor the master of empire, 

Neither the ghtter of gold nor the shimmering glory of purple : 



72 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

Freedom of soul, be assured, is achieved by nothing but reason. 

Is not the whole of Hfe, moreover, a struggle in darkness? 

Even as in black gloom do children tremble at all things. 

Fearing to go in the dark, so we ofttimes in the day-time 

Shrink back afraid from things that are no whit more to be dreaded 

Than those bugbears false that in darkness terrify children. 

All this terror of mind and all this darkness of spirit 

Neither the rays of the sun can dispel nor the shafts of the daylight — 

Only the shape of nature herself and the law of her being.^ 

Lucretius probably died in 55 B.C., and Catullus in 54. In 
the latter year also died Julia, Caesar's daughter and Pompey's 
wife, and with her the last obstacle to Pompey's reconcihation 
with the senate. In 53 the defeat and death of Crassus in 
Parthia left the two masters of the Roman world face to face 
without an intermediary. 

Our two contemporary authorities for the ensuing years 
are Cicero's later letters and Caesar's Civil War, each of which 
can be used to check the other. For filling in the gaps Plu- 
tarch, Suetonius, Appian, and Dio are useful, provided always 
that we remember their late dates. From 52 to 50 the two 
sides manoeuvre for position. Pompey, the political heir of 
Sulla, aspires to the role of saviour of society from aU sub- 
versive movements, of which in the existing state of Italy 
there are plenty to fear. The senate, faute de mieux, is ready 
to welcome him in that capacity. To that end it is essential 
that Caesar, the revolutionary of 59, shall be disarmed. But 
for Caesar to disarm is to put his head in a noose. He refuses 
to disarm unless Pompey does so too. So the manoeuvring 
goes on, until in 49 the senate forces the issue by an ultimatum, 
Caesar crosses the Rubicon, and civil war begins. In appear- 
ance it is a struggle between Rome's oldest and most honoured 
military hero, standing for law, order, and the rights of 
property, and a revolutionary general leading an army of 
peasant-soldiers to the plunder of the rich. The rich make a 
pitiable exhibition. Pompey, the senate, and a long train of 
terror-stricken property-owners abandon Rome in a panic; 
and Caesar and his legions move in. But there is no plunder- 
ing. Caesar is a masterly opportunist. He has won the devo- 
tion of his soldiers by addressing them as " comrades," sharing 
^ Lucretius, II, 14-19, 34-61. 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 73 

their hardships and dangers, and letting them loot freely in 
Gaul; but he has them well in hand. In the hour of victory 
Rome is astonished at his moderation. He sets his prisoners 
free, invites Cicero and other runaway senators to return, and 
does nothing more revolutionary than promise doles to the 
poorer citizens. He thus makes sure of Italy while he defeats 
first Pompey's officers in Spain (who are forced by their own 
men to surrender) and then Pompey himself in Greece. At 
Pharsalus, seeing the enemy routed or dead, he exclaims: 
" They would have it so ! " ^ Pompey escapes to Egypt and 
is murdered there. Cicero, out of his element in a civil war 
and shocked by the ferocious threats of the beaten party, 
profits by Caesar's clemency and returns to Rome. 

Caesar is now dictator — but dictator by grace of his legion- 
aries. He uses his victory to extend Roman citizenship to 
Cisalpine Gaul, where many of his soldiers were recruited ; 
to reheve economic distress in Rome and Italy by remitting 
a year's rent to poorer tenants ; to distribute gratuities to his 
officers and men, and doles to common citizens ; to reorganize 
finance and local government in Italy; to encourage free 
agriculture by obhging graziers to employ one free labourer 
in three; and to plant colonies overseas. Most of these 
measures are paUiatives and, for reasons already indicated, 
without lasting effect. Of more permanent importance than 
any is the reform of the calendar. Here we see the student of 
Greek science at his best. The old Roman calendar, ascribed 
by tradition to the mythical Numa, was based on the lunar 
month and had to be brought into line with the solar year 
by periodically intercalating an extra month. The priests 
responsible for the intercalation followed no strict rule, and 
by the time of Caesar had got the calendar into an indescribable 
muddle. Caesar called in the Greek astronomer Sosigenes to 
bring order out of chaos, and with his help instituted the 
Juhan calendar — an improvement on any method of time- 
measurement previously known. It was to be sixteen cen- 
turies before mounting discrepancies necessitated closer 
adjustment. 

The story of Caesar's end is so coloured for EngUsh readers 
^ Suctomus, Julius, XXX — citing Pollio, who was there. 



74 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

by Shakespeare's play that we have difficulty in adjusting our- 
selves to the real facts. The genius of the poet has painted 
in masterly fashion the picture of a pompous, posturing old 
gentleman without an idea in his head, who for some obscure 
reason has managed to become the uncrowned king of Rome; 
of the lean and hungry Cassius, the noble Brutus, and their 
friends stabbing him to death for his ambition ; of the wily 
Antony fooling these amateurish tyrannicides into letting him 
harangue the mob at Caesar's funeral; of a typical Shake- 
spearean mob veering from side to side and throwing up their 
sweaty night-caps now for Caesar, now for Brutus, and now 
for Antony; and of Brutus and Cassius riding '' like madmen 
through the gates of Rome," with Antony, Octavius, and 
Caesar's ghost hard on their track, until they fall on their own 
swords at Philippi. 

What Caesar really was and really did we have seen. The 
plot against him was hatched partly by members of the beaten 
senatorial nobility and partly by disgruntled careerists of his 
own party. Cassius, the ringleader of the conspiracy, was 
typical of the former. Lean he may have been ; but we may 
be sure that this competent and rapacious soldier never went 
hungry. His brother-in-law, Marcus Brutus, is one of the 
most undeservedly idealized characters in history. No one 
could be less like the real Brutus than Shakespeare's " noblest 
Roman of them all." He was one of Cicero's circle and, 
like Cicero, posed as a philosopher and moralist. That did 
not prevent him from lending money to provincials at the 
lucrative rate of forty-eight per cent, and stickling for repay- 
ment to the uttermost farthing^ — a fact which makes the 
tirade against extortion, put into his mouth by Shakespeare, 
read like a bad joke. Both Cassius and Brutus had submitted 
to Caesar after Pharsalus and had been rewarded with office 
and honour. They drew into their counsels men like Tre- 
bonius and Decimus Brutus (a relation of Marcus), who had 
held command under Caesar, but had now become jealous of 
his power ; and others to the number of at least sixty. Such 
was the company who on the Ides of March, 44 B.C., hemmed 
in and despatched with twenty-three daggers an elderly man 
armed only with a stilus. The story of his last words to 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 75 

Brutus is plain invention. Caesar was probably past utter- 
ance, if not dead, before Brutus got in his blow. If any 
words escaped the dying man, who would remember them 
in the scuffle? 

Two opposite reactions to the assassination — one of privi- 
leged, the other of common folk — are worth noting. On the 
one hand we have Cicero's short, delighted letter to a con- 
spirator. " Congratulations ! I am overjoyed. I wish you 
well. I am at your service. Wish me well and let me 
know what you are doing and what is afoot.'* ^ On the 
other hand we have Suetonius' account of the funeral in the 
Forum. 

" The throng of bystanders heaped dry branches on 
the pyre, benches, judges' seats, and whatever else would 
serve as an offering. . . . Veterans of the legions threw 
into the flames the arms with which they had accoutred 
themselves for the funeral. Many women, too, threw 
in the jewels which they wore and the amulets and robes 
of their children. At the height of the public grief a 
multitude of foreigners went about lamenting, each after 
the manner of his nation — above all, the Jews, who night 
after night flocked to the place of cremation." ^ 

Cicero's delight was premature. Caesar had been the main 
moderating influence in his own party. With his death the 
demand of the people and the legions for vengeance became 
irresistible. The traditional story, immortalized by Shake- 
speare, of a pliable mob lashed to fury by a designing Antony 
is unhistorical. Cicero's correspondence, our main con- 
temporary authority, makes no allusion to the alleged inflam- 
matory speech. We hear of it for the first time in his 
Philippics, composed nearly a year later ; and Cicero the orator, 
unless corroborated, is not a safe witness. Antony was a 
tough soldier, useful on the battlefield, but without, so far as 
can be traced, an idea in his head except those normal to his 
kind. Caesar's assassination found him quite unprepared for 
desperate courses. At the funeral, according to the credible 

1 Letters to his Friends, VI, 15. 2 J^^li^s, LXXXIV 



76 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

account preserved by Suetonius, he ordered a herald to read 
out the honours voted to Caesar by the senate, but himself 
said very little. He was undoubtedly inclined to accept the 
accomplished fact and conciliate the assassins. Far from in- 
citing the popular riots which followed the funeral, he 
repressed them as consul to the best of his ability, hurling the 
ringleaders from the Tarpeian rock and crucifying slaves who 
participated. Only after the lapse of a month, when it was 
plain that the people, and above all the soldiers, were im- 
placable, that they had unofficially deified Caesar and expected 
vengeance for his murder, that they were only waiting for a 
leader, and that if Antony did not lead them they would find 
someone else, did Antony begin to cast himself for the part 
of Caesar's successor. And by then someone else was on the 
scene. 

Caesar's grand-nephew, Octavian, the future Augustus, was 
by nature no more a revolutionary than Antony. He came 
of a rich family at Velitrae (Velletri) in Latium. His father, 
Gains Octavius, had in 63 B.C. wiped out a remnant of the 
revolutionary armies of Spartacus and Catiline in southern 
Italy. The role of revolutionary leader was forced on his 
son by circumstances not of his seeking. Caesar had made 
him his principal heir and adopted him. Family loyalty, of 
which this youth of eighteen was not devoid, would prompt 
him to avenge his uncle and benefactor. As Antony, who 
was in authority, made no move and repelled his advances, 
Octavian turned to the legions. Months of manoeuvring 
followed — Antony and Octavian each trying to win the 
soldiers; Cicero, an old fool to the end, mistaking his man 
and trying to use Octavian to prop up the doomed republic 
against Antony; and the soldiers not caring who led them, 
so long as they were led to victory, vengeance, and booty. 
In the end the veterans in 43 forced Antony and Octavian to 
compose their feud and march on Rome. This time there 
were no half-measures. The men who had sowed the wind 
reaped the whirlwind. Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus, 
created by a popular vote " triumvirs for the reconstitution of 
the State," executed out of hand two thousand three hun- 
dred of the Roman upper class — Cicero among the first — 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 77 

and confiscated their property. In the graphic words of 
Ferrero : 

" Those who had spoiled the world were now de- 
spoiled; a retired muleteer held the consulship, an out- 
ward and visible sign of the political triumph of the poor 
over the rich ; while the vast fortunes amassed within the 
circuit walls of Rome and drawn from the ruin of many 
a shattered civilization were abandoned to a horde drunk 
with the lust of plunder."^ 

In 42 a popular vote officially deified the dead Caesar, and 
Nemesis overtook Cassius and Brutus on the field of Philippi. 
Let Suetonius sum up the matter in his own words : 

" Hardly any of Caesar's assassins survived him for 
more than three years, or died a natural death. They 
were all condemned, and they perished in various ways 
— some by shipwreck, some in battle; some took their 
own Hves with the self-same dagger with which they had 
impiously slaia Caesar." ^ 

With the end of Cicero's letters we lose, after twenty-five 
years in his company, an unrivalled contemporary com- 
mentator on events. Of the sequel we have no continuous 
first-hand account, though many extracts are embodied in 
works of later times. The important contemporary inscrip- 
tion known as the Monumentum Ancyranum (because the best 
preserved copy is at Ankara in Turkey), in which Augustus 
records his own life-work, though authoritative, is of neces- 
sity partial and no more than a summary. The poems of 
Virgil and Horace throw some light on the events of the time, 
at least as reflected in the opinion of their set. For fuller 
information we are dependent in the main on Plutarch, 
Suetonius, Appian, and Dio. 

The Roman nobihty had been liquidated ; and the legions 

^ The Greatness and Decline of Rome, vol. Ill, chap. xi. The " retired 
muleteer " was Ventidius Bassus, one of Caesar's parvenu officers and a 
zealous avenger of his death. 

2 Julius, LXXXIX. 



I 



78 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

had entered into its inheritance. But neither Antony nor 
Octavian was at heart a revolutionary. It had been necessary 
to avenge Caesar and to reward the legionaries, on whom their 
power depended, with land, slaves, and other property con- 
fiscated firom the wealthy. That done, it was necessary to 
consoHdate the new order. It was to the interest of each 
triumvir, if he could, while retaining the support of the 
soldiery, to forestall his colleagues in assuming the role of 
" saviour of society." Thus Antony in 41, through his 
brother Lucius, tried to sabotage the distribution of land in 
Italy, and so discredit Octavian with the veterans, while him- 
self gaining credit with the owners of property. But the 
veterans rallied to Octavian, the landowners' revolt fizzled 
out, and Antony had to disavow his agents. The triumvirs 
were temporarily reconciled by a common danger. Sextus 
Pompeius, the son of Pompey, had seized Sicily and was 
threatening Italy with a fleet and army manned largely with 
slaves recruited by a promise of freedom. In 36 Octavian 
defeated Sextus and proved himself a pillar of society by 
returning thirty thousand slaves to their owners. Thence- 
forward the cards were in his hands. All Italy rallied to the 
former revolutionary who had so convincingly proved his 
devotion to law and order. Significantly, it was just then 
that Octavian was for the first time invested with the " tri- 
bunician authority " which made him constitutionally sacro- 
sanct. No reward could be too great for the saviour of slave 
society. While Antony, fatally entangled with Cleopatra, 
addressed abusive letters to him from Alexandria, Octavian, 
brilliantly aided by Agrippa, consolidated his popularity in 
Italy by public works and doles, and successfully represented 
himself as the defender of Roman institutions against Oriental 
despotism. Nevertheless he was not allowed to forget to 
whom he owed his power. In the very year of Actium and 
in the very hour of victory he had to cope with a mutiny of 
soldiers demanding discharge and gratuities. He was able to 
meet them only when he had annexed Egypt, enriched him- 
self and Rome with the accumulated treasure of the Ptolemies, 
and returned to Italy more indisputably master of the world 
than Sulla, Pompey, or even Juhus had been before him. 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 79 

The part played in these events by Cleopatra has given 
rise to a famous speculation. How far would the course of 
history have been materially different if her personal charms, 
her intellectual endowments, or both had been less remarkable 
than they were? How far, in short, are human affairs deter- 
mined by mere accident? The question betrays a curious 
misapprehension of the situation. Cleopatra — an extra- 
ordinary woman — in an age when Oriental thrones were 
toppling before the power of Rome, tried to save her own by 
fascinating first one Roman general and then another. If 
thrones could be saved in that kind of way, no doubt she 
would have succeeded. Let us suppose that she had been less 
irresistible. Antony in that case might not have fallen in 
love with her, might have avoided the blunders which 
ahenated Italy, and might have retained enough support in 
the West to outmatch Octavian. In that event Antony, not 
Octavian, would have annexed Egypt and founded the first 
imperial dynasty. But even if he had done so, the govern- 
ment set up in the Roman Empire would not have been very 
different from that established by his rival. The principate, 
or mihtary dictatorship functioning under republican forms, 
which lasted from Augustus to Diocletian was a product not 
of the personality of its founder, but of the conditions of the 
problem. It was impossible that the Roman ruling class 
should continue to dominate the Mediterranean world 
through an army recruited no longer to any considerable 
extent in Rome, but over the length and breadth of Italy, 
and attached far more closely to its officers than to the senate 
and magistrates of the republic. Political power had to con- 
form to reahty, not to a fiction. In the absence of any 
representative system, this meant vesting political power in 
the commander of the army. The dictatorship of Julius, the 
triumvirate of Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus, and the princi- 
pate of Augustus were so many recognitions of this simple 
fact. But in order that the new machinery might work with 
a minimum of disturbance to the social order, republican 
appearances had to be kept up, magistrates elected in due 
form, and the iron hand of dictatorship concealed as far as 
possible in a velvet glove. As to this, there was no real differ- 



80 THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 

ence between Antony and Octavian. The idea that Antony, 
if victorious, would have treated repubhcan forms with less 
ceremony than Octavian is not borne out by the evidence. 
Even at the height of his infatuation with Cleopatra he never 
styled himself king, but always triumvir or imperator. The 
rivalry of the two men was personal, not political. Each 
from time to tim.e might try to outbid the other for the support 
of the people, the senate, or the legions ; each from time to 
time might try to discredit the other by demagogy ; but each, 
in the event of success, must inevitably have made the same 
kind of settlement. How little lasting difference was made 
by Actium is shown by the fact that three-quarters of a century 
later Rome was ruled by the emperor Claudius — a grandson 
of Antony and a grand-nephew of Augustus. After a full 
century neither triumvir had any descendants left. The 
dynastic issue was ephemeral. But the principate, the product 
of the revolution, survived. 

One farther fact is worth noting about the Roman revolu- 
tion. In appearance it replaced free institutions by a dictator- 
ship. Hence the legend which the eloquence of Cicero, 
reinforced by second-hand authorities like Plutarch, was able 
to impose on Europe from the revival of learning until recent 
times. The free Roman republic, in which the people were 
sovereign, and magistrates and generals their obedient ser- 
vants, became an ideal which all reformers and all revolu- 
tionists aspired to realize in the modem world. Actually, 
even if we ignore the slavery on which it was based, the repub- 
Hc could not, except in the thinnest theoretical sense, be 
called a democracy. In the parmership of the " senate and 
people of Rome '* the senate, a close corporation of wealthy 
ex-magistrates, was always predominant. It was in permanent 
session and in control of day-to-day administration, foreign 
affairs and fmance ; and its members as a matter of course 
used the opportunities of office to feather their nests. The 
popular assembly, though theoretically sovereign and with 
direct powers of legislation, was difficult to convene, and 
increasingly so as citizenship was extended first to the Latin 
cities and then by degrees to the whole of Italy. Only the 
most wealthy and leisured class of Italian could travel to Rome 



THE ROMAN REVOLUTION 8l 

to vote. In the last age of the repubhc there was no force, 
with the single exception of the legions, capable of opposing 
the irresponsible power of the senate and ending its intolerable 
misgovemment of Italy and the provinces. The revolution 
carried out by Caesar, Antony, and Octavian (largely, as we 
have seen, in spite of themselves) was doubtless illegal, violent, 
and sanguinary. It doubtless destroyed free institutions, if 
the unlimited freedom of the senatorial nobility to obstruct 
necessary reforms by political chicanery can be dignified by 
that phrase. But at least it put an end to the unlimited 
plunder of the Mediterranean world by the plutocracy of a 
single city-state. It opened a career to the free Italians who 
had till then fought the battles of Roman imperialism without 
any proportionate share in its winnings, and it thereby paved 
the way for a yet wider extension of citizenship under the 
later empire. The fault of the Roman revolution lay not in 
what it did, but in what it did not do. Slavery remained the 
basis of the social fabric. Three-fourths of the population of 
the Roman world were still the chattels of r!ie other fourth. 
In that fact lay the canker which, not withstanding the best- 
devised imperial administration, was to eat away the heart of 
the Roman Empire and to bring about its decline and fall. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE EAST GOES WEST 

THE history of the early Roman emperors is indehbly 
coloured by the sombre pen of Tacitus. This greatest 
of Roman historians was bom early in the reign of 
Nero, entered public life under Vespasian, and held high office 
under Domitian, Nerva, and Trajan. He wrote his Histories 
early in the last-named emperor's reign and the Annals later. 
Although he was for the most part not contemporary with the 
events related in the Annals, we know that he used contem- 
porary sources. Some of them he names — among them the 
Acta Diurna, the lost memoirs of the empress Agrippina, and 
the lost history of the elder Pliny. The credit we attach to 
Tacitus will depend to a large extent on our estimate of his 
sources ; but his incisive style and passionate conviction place 
him head and shoulders above any other Latin historian. 

Apart from inscriptions and coins, our other evidence is 
poor in quality. The one extant contemporary historian of 
the early empire, Velleius Paterculus, wrote under Tiberius. 
He is as partial to the emperors as Tacitus is hostile, and a far 
inferior writer. The Jew Josephus, who wrote a little before 
Tacitus, though an invaluable authority on the small corner 
of the empire with which he is concerned, has little to say on 
the main current of events. Suetonius, a junior contemporary 
of Tacitus and author of the Lives of the Ccesars, was secretary 
to the emperor Hadrian, and as such must have had access to 
much inside information on earlier reigns, but is a credulous 
gossip quite incapable of putting his information to critical 
use, and observes next to no chronology. Our remaining 
authority, Dio, wrote his history a century after Tacitus and 
Suetonius, when the empire was in full decline and heading 
for disruption. Like Suetonius, he held official posts and had 
access to important material, but he was superstitious and 

82 



THE EAST GOES WEST 83 

uncritical, and his work is poor stuff. Unfortunately we are 
dependent on Suetonius and Dio for periods in the early 
empire not covered by Tacitus, including the whole reign of 
Augustus. 

Suetonius and Dio tell us that, after the defeat of Antony, 
Octavian (as he then still was) thought of restoring the repub- 
Hc. There is no reason to doubt that, if the thing had been 
possible, he would have done it. As we have seen, Octavian 
was not at heart a revolutionary. The role had been thrust 
on him by the army in spite of himself. As soon as he safely 
could, he had shown himself a friend of property and order. 
Once Antony was out of the way, his tired and often sickly 
rival would have been pleased enough, no doubt, to take a 
rest and let the republic run itself. But that was the very last 
thing desired by the frightened property-owners whom he 
had saved from social revolution. The logic of the situation 
required that the commander of the army should rule ; and 
so long as he ruled with due regard to their interests and 
dignity, the senate were content to have it so. So were the 
people, if they could be sure of their daily bread ; and the 
soldiers, if they could be sure of gratuities and land. The 
conquest of Egypt, with its treasure and its cornfields, had put 
Octavian in the happy position of being able to please every- 
body. Senate and people, soldiers and civilians held out their 
hands in one rapacious cringe, and were not disappointed. 
The unhmited powers heaped on him, the sacred title of 
Augustus voted him by the senate, and the adulatory language 
of Virgil and Horace were the natural reward of the man who 
had ended the Roman revolution and glutted Italy with the 
loot of Egypt. 

The essentially conservative policy of Augustus showed 
itself in the establishment of a high property qualification for 
the senate, in the expulsion of two hundred parvenus who had 
entered it during the revolution, in the discontinuance of the 
pubhcation of its proceedings, in the stiffening of military 
discipline,^ in the limits set to the manumission of slaves, 

^ Once the civil wars were over, Augustus never addressed his men as 
" comrades " and forbade the use of this famiharity by others. It W2ls 
no longer the army of the revolution, but of the State. 



84 THE EAST GOES WEST 

in the exclusion of freedmen from enlistment in the army, 
and in legislation for the revival of religion and the enforce- 
ment of a stem sexual morality. Such legislation was both 
unpopular and futile. Its main outcome was two major 
scandals in the imperial family, when Augustus, caught in 
his own net, had to banish first his daughter Julia, then ten 
years later his granddaughter, of the same name, for adultery. 
A minor result was the banishment of the poet Ovid, the light- 
hearted singer of iUicit love, who was implicated somehow 
in this imperial cause celebre. 

It was not so easy to dodge the logic of events. In taking 
over the East, Augustus had assumed, whether he liked it or 
not, the functions of the god-king. At Rome he lived with 
studied simphcity, avoiding any semblance of regal or dic- 
tatorial power, voting and canvassing at elections, giving 
evidence in court and submitting to cross-examination like 
an ordinary citizen. But in the East he was a Pharaoh, an 
Alexander, a king of kings and lord of lords. He could not, 
even if he wished, stop the provinces from erecting temples 
in his honour. From the East the cult soon spread to the 
West. Augustus could only insist that such temples should 
be dedicated jointly to Rome and himself, and refuse to 
sanction their erection in Italy. Even there and at Rome 
itself the plebs, half Oriental in composition owing to the 
continued importation and manumission of slaves, extended 
to Augustus in his lifetime the unofficial deification which 
they had bestowed on Julius immediately after his death. 
To them Augustus was the heir and avenger of Julius. He 
had smashed the power of the senate, he had given Rome 
com from Egypt and brave shows, he had kept peace at 
home, and withal he had mixed with them as a plain citizen. 
Therefore they forgave him much. 

The Annals of Tacitus open with the death of Augustus in 
A.D. 14 at the age of seventy-five. From his first page 
Tacitus gives us the impression of a man with great literary, 
but little critical, power, boiling over with a violent and long- 
repressed indignation. Not till recently, he says in effect — 
not till the time of Nerva and Trajan, in which his historical 
works were written — ^has it been possible to tell the tmth 



THE EAST GOES WEST 85 

about the empire. Now, *' without bitterness or partiaHty," ^ 
Tacitus will tell it. A dreadful thing has happened to Rome. 
For material benefits, for peace, for cheap food, for adminis- 
trative efficiency, she has bartered away her freedom. The 
essential mischief was done under Augustus. By the time 
he died full of years and honours, *' how few were left who 
had seen the repubhc ! "^ The results of the mischief are 
to be read in a sickening story of tyranny at the top, sycophancy 
below, and universal degeneracy which Tacitus unfolds in 
detail until the Annals break off in the middle of Nero's reign 
of terror. 

Tacitus is undoubtedly right in his contention that the 
Roman Empire was a degenerate society. What we miss is 
any attempt, such as Thucydides would have made, to treat 
that degeneracy scientifically. Roman society under the 
late republic and empire, like Greek society after the Persian 
wars, illustrates in anticipation Abraham Lincoln's dictum 
that a State " cannot endure permanently half slave and half 
free." hi the Roman world the proportion was not even 
half and half, but something more like three slaves to one 
freeman. In such a society it was impossible that any insti- 
tution from the family to the State, from daily work to daily 
recreation, should not be tainted. We see the effect in the 
economic decline of Italy : what dignity was there in labour 
when hordes of slaves were being imported to do all that was 
necessary ? We see it in the extinction of public spirit : who 
cared for forms of government when the main business of 
the State was the repression of the majority for the sake of 
the minority ? We see it in the lubricity of poets and satirists : 
what kind of refinement could be expected when every man 
of property had an establishment of human chattels among 
whom to gratify his itch for varied sexual experience? 
Finally we see it in the rapidly growing profusion and popu- 
larity of gladiatorial shows. The fact that, while ten thousand 
gladiators fought during the whole reign of Augustus, an 
equal number are said to have perished in four months of 
Trajan's reign speaks more eloquently of Roman degeneracy 
than anything recorded by Tacitus or Suetonius. 
^ Tacitus, AnnalSf I, i. ^ ij^j j^ ^^ 



86 THE EAST GOES WEST 

Instead of seeking for causes, Tacitus seeks for scapegoats, 
and finds them in individual emperors. Of these not one 
escapes the lash, but Tiberius is the whipping-boy in chief. 
The portrait of this emperor by Tacitus is such that we have 
only to read it critically, carefully distinguishing fact from 
comment, to see that something is wrong. Tacitus plays a 
game of " heads I win, tails you lose.'' If Tiberius recalls a 
general, it is from jealousy ; if he prolongs his command, it is 
because he is too lazy to make a change or because he grudges 
promotion to others. If he refuses to relieve an impoverished 
senator, he is pitiless ; if he relieves sufferers from a disastrous 
fire, it is to " turn the calamity to his own glory." ^ Tacitus 
rings the changes on this kind of innuendo indefinitely. Few 
reputations could stand up to such a barrage. His final 
summary of the character of Tiberius has only to be read to 
be disbelieved by anyone not hypnotized by the prestige of a 
classic author. Under Augustus, that is until the age of 
fifty-four, Tiberius, we are told, enjoyed an excellent reputa- 
tion. After succeeding to the empire, for nine years he 
craftily assumed virtues which he did not possess. For another 
six years " he was a compound of good and evil." In his 
seventieth year he became cruel and debauched, but " veiled 
his debaucheries " in deference to his wicked minister Sejanus. 
At last, at the ripe age of seventy-one, after executing Sejanus, 
Tiberius indulged his vicious inclinations without fear or 
shame.^ 

This is a psychological chimera. No such monster of 
delayed iniquity ever wore human shape. Light is thrown 
on the matter by the fact that one of Tacitus' authorities, and 
probably his main authority for what went on in the palace, 
was Agrippina, grand-niece of Tiberius and mother of Nero. 
There could hardly be a worse witness. A woman who sold 
herself to her uncle Claudius for the sake of power and then 
poisoned him for the sake of more power would not stick at 
lying to further a family feud. Tacitus seems to have copied 
her quite uncritically. It cannot be an accident that the 
character of Tiberius touches bottom about the time when 
Agrippina was first of an age to take notes. 

1 Tacitus, Annals, VI, 45. ^ Ibid-, VI, 51. 



THE EAST GOES WEST 87 

With this preamble, and using Tacitus and Suetonius with 
discrimination, let us look at the facts. Tiberius Claudius 
Nero was sprung on both sides from one of the oldest and 
proudest famihes in Rome. His father, who bore the same 
name, had proposed in the senate to reward the assassins of 
JuUus Caesar and had taken part in the landowners' revolt of 
41 B.C., but had later rallied to Octavian as saviour of society. 
In 38, when his son was three years old, the elder Tiberius 
divorced his young wife Livia that she might marry the 
triumvir. That this transaction was voluntary on the part 
of all concerned is proved by the fact that the discarded hus- 
band was present at the wedding and on his death-bed made 
Octavian guardian to his children. Tiberius, therefore, 
though brought up under the eye of Augustus, belonged by 
tradition to that class which accepted the principate only as a 
regrettable necessity in the interests of property and order. 
By inclination he seems to have been an intellectual aristocrat 
averse from pubhc life and from the rivalries and intrigues 
of the imperial court. Under Augustus he commanded with 
distinction in the army and pushed the Roman frontier to 
the Danube. But it is evident that he did not wish for the 
succession. He did his best to avoid it by burying himself at 
Rhodes for seven years, to the disappointment of Livia and 
the deep displeasure of Augustus. Only in a.d. 4, when the 
death of the emperor's two grandsons (not by Livia, but by 
an earlier marriage) had left Tiberius the only possible candi- 
date, and when further evasion was a moral impossibility, did 
he allow himself to be adopted by Augustus and associated 
with him in the government. It is clear from the letters of 
Augustus (quoted by Suetonius) that the two men were now 
wholly reconciled, and that the ageing and failing emperor 
relied implicitly on his younger colleague. The reluctant 
acceptance of the empire by Tiberius at the hands of the senate 
ten years later, though represented by Tacitus and Suetonius 
as hypocritical, was entirely in keeping with his earlier 
career. 

It is plain from the narratives of both Tacitus and Suetonius 
that Tiberius as far as possible deferred to the senate as the 
supreme constitutional authority. It was his misfortune that 



88 THE EAST GOES WEST 

that body of sycophantic, grasping plutocrats was wholly 
incapable of its task and unworthy of his confidence. He did 
his best for them. He paid them the compliment of entrusting 
to them the annual election of magistrates, till then vested in 
the popular assembly. He encouraged freedom of debate, 
on one occasion going so far (if we are to believe Suetonius) 
as ironically to beg a senator's pardon for opposing him. He 
relieved pecuniarily embarrassed senators with a liberality 
which we should call demoralizing, but which they seem to 
have thought less than their deserts. Both Tacitus and 
Suetonius record his hatred of flattery and of adulatory forms 
of address. Tacitus characteristically treats this as a restriction 
on free speech ! 

Far from encouraging frivolous prosecutions, Tiberius, 
as long as he resided in Rome, set his face against 
them. Tacitus tells us how, when a man was charged with 
treason because he had included a statue of Augustus in an 
auction, Tiberius stopped the case, saying : " Wrongs done 
to the gods are the gods' concern "; ^ and how in another 
instance he vetoed proceedings against a man who had melted 
down a statue of himself for domestic use. An often-quoted 
case is that of Cremutius Cordus, the historian, who was 
brought to trial before the senate for having praised Brutus 
and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar. It is as if a historian 
of the present day were to glorify the Phoenix Park murderers 
of 1882.2 ^g ^j-g |.q1J |.]^^^ Tiberius listened to the case with 
" an angry frown " (whether at the behaviour of Cordus or 
at the waste of public time is not stated) and that Cordus 
went home and ended his own life. It is difficult to see how 
Tiberius was responsible for that. These prosecutions were 
initiated and tried, not by him, but by those very senators who 
were the first to squeal when they themselves were laid by 
the heels. Well might Tiberius exclaim in disgust as he left 

^ Tacitus, Annals, I, 73. 

^ The parallel is nearly exact. The lapse of time between the assassination 
of Caesar and the prosecution of Cordus was the same as between the 
Phoenix Park murders and the present day (1950). In each case the murder 
was political, and the murderers thought themselves patriots. In each 
case the act was not only a crime, but a blunder. Only Brutus and Cassius 
were rich aristocrats, and the Phoenix Park murderers men of the people. 



THE EAST GOES WEST 89 

the senate-house : " How ready they are for slavery ! *' ^ 
We are driven to regret that JuHus or Augustus had not 
stamped that miserable body out of existence. 

Among other charges laid by Tacitus against Tiberius are 
that on the occasion of a disastrous flood he refused to consult 
the Sibylline books and preferred to consider practical means 
of confming the Tiber to its banks ; that he recalled his nephew, 
Germanicus, from a costly attempt to conquer Germany; 
that he preferred diplomacy to war; and that he was indif- 
ferent to the expansion of the empire. Such reproaches may 
be left to speak for themselves. 

The real limitations of Tiberius appear in a matter on which 
for once emperor and historian are in perfect accord. We 
have already noticed the hostihty with which the Roman 
ruling class viewed the infdtration of alien rehgions into Italy. 
In the age following the conquests of Alexander, the cult of 
Isis, the Egyptian corn-goddess, had spread over the Greek- 
speaking world, and by the time of Sulla had reached Rome. 
The ritual and myth (already familiar to the Mediterranean 
world in other versions) of the dolorous goddess annually 
bewailing her slain lover and comforted by his joyful resur- 
rection had a warmer and more intimate appeal to the toiling 
masses than the official cults of their conquerors and exploiters. 
For that very reason the conservative Roman senate combated 
it, and again and again in the last years of the republic sup- 
pressed the worship of Isis in the capital. After Actium the 
cult fell into further disfavour through its association with 
Egypt and Cleopatra. Nor was Isis the only foreign deity to 
affront the authorities. Since the time of Pompey the Jews 
had been subject to the Roman Empire, and a considerable 
Jewish population, mostly slaves and freedmen, had found 
its way to Italy. At first Judaea had been allowed to continue 
as a client-state under the Herodian dynasty; but in a.d. 6 
Augustus had subjected it to direct Roman rule and to im- 
perial taxation. This step was to involve Rome in a more 
prolonged and bitter struggle than any other of her Oriental 
annexations. Not only did Palestine become a simmering 
hotbed of revolt, but every synagogue in the Mediterranean 
^ Tacitus, Annals, III, 65. 



90 THE EAST GOES WEST 

world became a potential centre of subversive propaganda. 
In A.D. 19 Tiberius and the senate found pretexts to strike at 
both cults.^ Four thousand freedmen of military age, either 
Jews or Isis-worshippers, were pressed for service against 
brigands in Sardinia — " a cheap sacrifice," says Tacitus, 
" should they die from the pestilential climate." ^ Other 
adherents of the two forbidden cults were ordered to recant 
by a stated day or to quit Italy. 

Tiberius in this was not actuated by religious bigotry. 
The man who said, *' Wrongs done to the gods are the gods* 
concern," and refused to open the Sibylline books, obviously 
did not care a straw whether people worshipped one god or 
another. Apart from a weakness for astrology he seems to 
have been indifferent to religion. But the clash between 
Rome and Judaism was far more than a theological quarrel. 
It was a struggle between two ways of life; and Rome 
knew it. Caesar, the revolutionary, had patronized the Jews ; 
Augustus and Tiberius, the conservatives, held them in con- 
tempt. On the one hand was a civilization based on grada- 
tions of rank and wealth, seeing in mass slavery the natural 
and necessary foundation of any culture worth having, and in 
slaves chattels without legal rights, to be bought or sold, 
employed as prostitutes or gladiators, thrown to the fishes 
or crucified if their owners saw fit. That was Roman order, 
unmodified as yet by the palliatives which later emperors 
were to introduce. On the other hand was a community 
(according to its own legends, of servile origin) which indeed 
owned slaves, but whose law contained noteworthy provisions 
in their favour — denied, for example, to masters the power of 
hfe and death, enforced a weekly day of rest, allowed co- 
habitation with female captives only on condition of manu- 
mission and marriage (" she shall be thy wife . . . thou shalt 
not deal with her as a slave " ^), and forbade the return of 
runaways to their owners. How far these and similar pro- 
visions were at any time enforced by the priestly aristocracy 

^ We know of the pretexts only from Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, 3, 
4-5. This passage immediately follows a notorious interpolation on the 
subject of Jesus Christ, and has probably itself been tampered with. 

2 Annals, II, 85. ^ Deut. xxi, 13-14. 



THE EAST GOES WEST pi 

of Jerusalem may be doubtful. But to thousands upon thou- 
sands of Jews, whether resident in Palestine or scattered over 
the Mediterranean, they were divine commands, read publicly 
in the synagogues and driven home by the often-reiterated 
reminder : " Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman 
in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee : 
therefore I command thee this thing today." ^ Many 
thousands of proselytes must have been won to Judaism by 
these proclamations of social justice in the law and the 
prophets. The mere existence of Judaism was offensive to 
Rome. A proselytizing Judaism was more than offensive : 
it was menacing. A Judaism which not only proselytized, 
but announced the imminent advent of a kingdom of God 
wherein the promises of the law and the prophets should be 
fulfilled, was a challenge to the Roman Empire sufficient to 
provoke its rulers to sharp action. 

Failing honest and efficient administration by the senate, 
Tiberius had to seek it where he could. This accounts for the 
rise to power of Sejanus, the commander of the praetorian 
guard, and for the tragedy of the later part of the reign. 
Sejanus, a Tuscan, was a typical member of the rich ItaHan 
middle class on which Augustus and Tiberius drew to supply 
the deficiencies of the effete Roman nobility. Tacitus is so 
unwilling to admit the plain fact that he is reduced to ascribing 
the rise of Sejanus to " heaven's wrath against Rome." ^ 
He allows that he was competent, energetic, and for many 
years personally loyal to Tiberius. He probably prompted 
(if prompting was necessary) the harsh measures against the 
Jews. It was certainly through his influence that Pontius 
Pilate (" inflexible, merciless, obstinate " the client-prince 
Agrippa called him) was made procurator of Judaea. 

Unfortunately the loyalty of Sejanus was based on an expec- 
tation of eventually stepping into the shoes of Tiberius. The 
problem of succession is one which all dictatorships have to 
solve. The principate founded by Augustus was not in theory 
a hereditary monarchy. There was no constitutional reason 
why Tiberius, if he had wished Sejanus to succeed him, should 
not have adopted him and associated him in the government 

1 Deut. V, 15; XV, 15; xvi, 12; xxiv, 18, 22. ^ jinnals, IV, i. 



PIP 



92 THE EAST GOES WEST 

as he himself had been adopted and associated with Augustus. 
But Tiberius did not want this. He had a son, a grandson, 
and grand-nephews (children of his dead nephew, the popular 
Germanicus), and a natural weakness for his own family. 
Sejanus therefore embarked on crooked courses. He secretly- 
poisoned the emperor's son Drusus (a young lout chiefly 
interested in gladiatorial shows, whom nobody seems to have 
liked), carefully sowed suspicion between Tiberius and his 
family, and in a.d. 26 persuaded the old man to retire to 
Capreae (Capri), leaving Sejanus practically in control of affairs. 
Tiberius was sixty-seven, he had never wanted the empire, 
and now he was sick to death of Rome, of business, and of the 
fawning senate which did its best to make good government 
impossible. The story that he withdrew to Capri to hide his 
vices (probably put into circulation by the vitriolic pen of 
Agrippina, and reproduced by both Tacitus and Suetonius) 
is refuted, so far as it can be refuted, by the admission of 
Suetonius that he enjoyed excellent health almost to the day 
of his death. Tacitus tells us that he was attended in his 
retirement by a coterie of learned men, mostly Greeks. 
They do not sound like boon companions. No doubt he 
preferred their conversation to debates in the senate. 

In any case the effects of his withdrawal were wholly 
lamentable. Sejanus, having got him out of the w^ay, used 
his authority to ruin the family of Germanicus and any who 
might bar his own path to empire. The history of the years 
29-31 is missing from Tacitus, and has to be gathered from 
other sources. From Suetonius and Dio we know that in 
31 Tiberius awoke to the situation, appointed a new com- 
mander of the praetorian guard, and denounced Sejanus to 
the senate. The senators put to death with wolf-like alacrity 
the hated minister who had been promoted over their heads, 
and followed this up with a bloody vendetta against his 
family and friends. Tiberius never returned to Rome. The 
treachery of Sejanus seems to have wrecked his nerves. At 
any rate from that time he rarely interposed, as in better 
days he had often done, between suspects and their sentence. 
He died in 37, a most unhappy old man, broken by a burden 
which he had not sought, betrayed by his friend, ahenated 



THE EAST GOES WEST 93 

from his family, and detested by his people. He was not 
deified : indeed, the military had to protect his body from a 
raging mob bent on consigning " Tiberius to the Tiber." ^ 

The snobbish preoccupation of Tacitus with misfortunes in 
high hfe is apt to blind his readers to the fact that all this time 
the Roman Empire, or at least its free subjects, enjoyed as 
good a government as a basically vicious social order allowed. 
Under the principate, for the first time in Roman history, a 
governor who feathered his nest irregularly might be sure 
at the very least of exile to a Greek island and could not hope 
to escape by bribery, as dehnquent governors had often done 
under the republic. Tacitus himself at the outset of his 
Annals admits that the provinces were better protected under 
the emperors than under the republic from the rapacity of 
officials. Yet he illegitimately swells the list of Tiberius' 
victims by including among them many men who were con- 
victed of extortion and very properly punished. Under 
senatorial rule the Roman upper class had become used to 
treating the provinces as fair game ; and the habit was hard to 
break. Though Roman rule at its best was harsh to the lower 
ranks of society, even the iron repression of a Pilate was better 
than the unregulated rapacity of a Verres. 

For ten years following the death of Tiberius there is a gap 
in the Annals which we have to bridge with the help of 
Suetonius and Dio. In addition, we have useful contemporary 
sidelights in the works of the two Jews, Philo and Josephus. 
The grand-nephew and immediate successor of Tiberius, 
Gains Caligula, was by universal consent insane — and about 
as bad an advertisement of the hereditary principle as could 
be wished. He was the first emperor who attained power 
without any preliminary training in responsible posts, and 
the first who not only allowed divine honours to be paid to 
him, but claimed and enforced them, even at Rome, in his 
lifetime. That the principate could survive nearly four years 
of this madman is proof positive that no other form of govern- 
ment was then possible. As it was, after his assassination the 
senate seriously meditated the restoration of the republic. 
Such a folly, which could have led only to a new civil war 
^ Suetonius, Tiberius, LXXV. 



94 THE EAST GOES WEST 

and a new usurpation, was prevented by the praetorian guard, 
who, supported by the populace, acclaimed Claudius, the 
brother of Germanicus, as emperor and forced him on the 
reluctant senate. 

Claudius, like Tiberius, has been badly treated by history. 
Suetonius depicts him as feeble in mind and body, an ungainly 
pedant, a universal butt, and utterly unfit to rule. Tacitus 
shows him helpless in the hands of worthless wives and un- 
scrupulous freedmen and, if not himself a tyrant, yet a passive 
instrument of tyranny in others. Actually he was anything 
but a fool. He seems to have been of the type now known 
as the " dreamy professor," and for that reason to have been 
deliberately passed over by his great-uncle Augustus and his 
uncle Tiberius, who could not imagine the sickly, stammering, 
absent-minded scholar to be suitable for any public employ- 
ment. Nevertheless, when in his fiftieth year the empire 
was thrust upon him, he proved himself their worthy suc- 
cessor. Following their line, he set himself in general against 
expansion, causing military martinets hke Corbulo to lament 
the good old days of empire-building. His only considerable 
departure from this policy was his expedition to Britain, which 
resulted (a.d. 43 — nearly a century after Caesar's abortive 
invasion) in the annexation of the south and east of the island 
and in the plantation of a colony of discharged soldiers at 
Camulodunum (Colchester). He was the first emperor to 
mitigate in some degree the savagery of Roman slavery by 
forbidding the brutal practice of marooning sick and worn- 
out slaves on an island in the Tiber to save the expense of 
treatment. He enacted that slaves so misused should be 
freed, and that masters who killed their slaves to save treat- 
ment should be guilty of murder. In Gaul he suppressed the 
barbarous rites of the Druids, and in 48 (in the teeth of much 
senatorial opposition) extended full Roman citizenship, with 
the right to hold public office and enter the senate, to certain 
of the nobles of that country. 

Thus by progressive extension of citizen rights the Roman 
Empire became less and less Roman, and the seed was sown 
of the Romance culture of later ages. The most effective 
agent, however, in the Latinization of the West was not the 



I 



THE EAST GOES WEST 95 

literate noble, but the simple legionary. Encamped along the 
Rhine and Danube frontier, or settled on discharge in colonies 
dotted over the frontier provinces, he conducted his daily 
business not in the literary Latin of Cicero or Tacitus, but in 
a Latin differing at least as much from what we caU " classical '* 
as the Enghsh of a village '* pub " differs from that of a Times 
leader. We get some idea of this idiom from inscriptions 
(notably those unearthed at Pompeii) and from sketches of 
low life in comic or satirical writers from Plautus to Petronius. 
Interaction between this vernacular Latin, with its clipped or 
slurred syllables, dropped aspirates, and simplified grammar, 
and the speech of the surrounding Iberians, Celts, or other 
natives was to produce in the course of many centuries the 
national languages and literatures of a new Europe. 

Such developments, however, lay beyond the horizon of 
even the most far-sighted administrators of the first century. 
They were concerned with the conservation of society as 
they had inherited it. Gross oppression might be punished, 
and the worst abuses corrected; but none doubted that the 
mission of Rome (even if the name *' Roman " were extended 
to include free Italians and high-bom provincials) was to 
impose her dominion and way of life on her natural slaves. 
Since the death of Tiberius, the Jews, whom he had banished 
from Italy, had infiltrated back into the capital and, under 
Claudius, carried their disaffection to the empire to the point 
of rioting. Claudius replied by reimposing his uncle's ban. 
" Since the Jews constantly made disturbances at the instiga- 
tion of Chrestus," says Suetonius, *' he expelled them from 
Rome."^ Whatever may have been the case before, by the 
date when Suetonius wrote (about 120) the name " Chrestus " 
or " Christus " had come to denote the founder of a new, 
illicit, and dangerous movement of Jewish origin; and 
there can be no doubt that in this curt sentence Suetonius 
identifies the rioters with the Christians. The bearing of his 
statement on the problem of Christian origins will be con- 
sidered later. 

Like many men of the " dreamy professor " type, Claudius 
was unfortunate in his relations with women. He had been 
^ Suetonius, Claudius, XXV. 



96 THE EAST GOES WEST 

twice unhappily married before becoming emperor. His 
third wife, Messahna, over thirty years his junior, made her 
name the byword which it has ever since remained. In 48 
she overstepped the hmit by plotting with her latest lover 
against the life and throne of her elderly and absent-minded 
husband. At this the emperor's secretary, the Greek freed- 
man Narcissus, decided to save his master from himself, and 
by revealing the truth procured the execution of Messalina 
and her paramour. But Claudius seems to have been able to 
live neither with women nor without them. Hardly was 
he rid of Messalina when he allowed himself to be ensnared 
into marriage with his widowed niece, the unspeakable 
Agrippina. In 50 her twelve-year-old son was adopted by 
Claudius and given the name of Nero. In 54, having no 
further use for Claudius (who had begun to see through her), 
she despatched him to join the gods and secured the empire 
for her son. 

Nero, like Caligula, is a pathological case. He had some 
good natural qualities : his passion for the arts was not as 
whoUy base as Roman prejudice liked to pretend. In Seneca 
he had a good tutor and adviser, and in Burrus, an old soldier 
who had served Tiberius and Claudius, a trusty commander 
of the praetorian guard. In the early years of the reign 
Seneca's influence was manifest. Nero refused the title of 
" father of his country " and other flatteries heaped on him 
by the servile senate ; professed devotion to the constitutional 
traditions of Augustus ; replied to a vote of thanks by saying, 
" Wait till I have deserved it"; limited gladiatorial shows; 
remitted oppressive taxation ; and set a precedent by pubhsh- 
ing a budget. But the principate had not been built to stand 
the strain of government by a youth in his teens, and — we may 
add in charity to Nero — youths in their teens are not built to 
stand the strain of being Roman emperors. Irresponsible 
power turned his brain, as it had turned Caligula's. Agrip- 
pina had imagined that by elevating her son she would 
become mistress of the empire. Desperately attempting to 
assert her authority, she was pushed aside and fmally in 59 
murdered. It is almost as difficult to be sorry for her as to 
approve of matricide. Clytaemnestra had engendered Orestes. 



THE EAST GOES WEST 97 

Tacitus is in his element in his description of the murder, 
which took place in his own childhood and of which there 
were many contemporary accounts. The story of the col- 
lapsible boat and its failure to work, of Agrippina's escape, of 
Nero*? terrified consultation with Seneca and Burrus (no less 
embarrassing to them), and of the doomed woman's cry — 
" Smite the womb that bore him ! " — is among the grimmest 
and most graphic pieces of writing in historical literature. 

But purple passages on tragedies in high life, in which 
Tacitus excels, must not blind us to more important sides of 
imperial history. That the Roman Empire survived the 
rule of a maniac like Nero was due to the fact that under 
preceding emperors, and especially under Claudius, it had 
evolved a very efficient governmental machine. The senate 
having proved itself incapable of government (or indeed of 
doing anything except fawn on the strong and stamp on the 
weak), the emperors recruited their administrators from the 
middle ranks of society. Claudius showed his enterprise and 
earned the special obloquy of the diehards by throwing open 
the pubUc service to men who had risen from slavery. This 
employment of freedmen had its good as well as its bad side. 
It meant that, for the first time in the history of the empire, 
administration was in the hands of men who knew what hard 
work was and how the social fabric was maintained. It did 
not guarantee their honesty or their humanity. The slave 
who won his freedom in ancient Rome might owe his manu- 
mission to industry and special talent, or to toadying and 
dirty dealing. He might fill creditably any post to which he 
was promoted, or he might be a walking disaster. Ancient 
historians, belonging themselves to the slave-owning class, 
naturally concentrate on the bad cases. Actually there is no 
evidence that freedmen made worse administrators on the 
average than the senatorial nobility who had plundered the 
provinces under the republic. We hear much from Tacitus 
and Suetonius of the peculations and oppressions of Narcissus 
and Pallas, the Greek secretary and treasurer of Claudius, and 
of Felix, the brother of Pallas, who as procurator of Judaea 
" exercised the powers of a king in the spirit of a slave." ^ 
^ Tacitus, HistorieSy V, 9. 



98 THE EAST GOES WEST 

Yet, on the showing of Tacitus, Narcissus served Claudius 
faithfully in the matter of Messalina, tried to dissuade him from 
marrying Agrippina, and after the murder of his master paid 
for his loyalty with his life. We learn from Suetonius that 
Vespasian, afterwards emperor, owed his first command to 
Narcissus. For Pallas and Felix there is very little to be said. 
But the bulk of the civil service must have been reliable, or 
the empire would have collapsed. 

Promotions of this sort were naturally unpleasing to the 
senate; and under Nero we find that body making vicious 
efforts to tighten the chains of slavery. A debate recorded by 
Tacitus in the year 56 shows the fear with which the upper 
class regarded the servile mass on which their wealth and ease 
depended. A motion that offending freedmen should be 
reduced to slavery at the discretion of their former owners 
found wide support in the senate, but was opposed on grounds 
of expediency. Freedmen, it was stated, made up the majority 
of the city populace, the public services, and the pohce. 
Even some senators had freedmen for fathers.^ Any attempt 
to brand freedmen as a class apart would only draw attention 
to their numbers. Nero, doubtless on the advice of Seneca, 
ruled that their offences should be dealt with by ordinary 
law. 

But the senate did not let the question sleep. An old 
law provided that if a master were murdered by a slave 
all his household slaves should be executed. In 57 the senate 
extended this penalty to those manumitted under the will of 
the murdered man. In 61, on the murder of Secundus, the 
city prefect, the law was put into force. Tacitus shows the 
direction of his own sympathies by reporting at length the 
speech of a senator in favour of the execution of the law, 
while merely noting the fact that there was a minority against 
it. On this occasion the city populace, in agreeable contrast 
to their rulers, showed that even constant famiharity with 
gladiatorial shows had not quenched all their decent instincts. 
They were not so far removed from slavery themselves. 
They turned out with stones and firebrands to rescue the 
victims from execution. Nero thereupon lined the route 
^ Nero, however, debarred such men from office. Suetonius, Nero, XV. 



THE EAST GOES WEST 99 

with soldiers; and four hundred slaves, the great majority 
admittedly innocent, suffered the penalty of the law. The 
senate in fact outdid Nero in brutality; for a proposal that 
the freedmen of Secundus should be punished by transporta- 
tion was stopped by the imperial veto. 

In 62 Burrus died a (perhaps) natural death, and Seneca, 
whose influence had long been waning, retired into private 
life. Nero was thenceforth swayed by the Sicilian Tigellinus, 
the new commander of the praetorian guard, and by his own 
maniacal temperament. Some of the enormities laid to his 
charge by Tacitus and Suetonius we should now dismiss as 
venial. We could even wish that the performances as actor, 
musician, and vocalist, put by Suetonius in the forefront of 
his crimes, had been more numerous and his gladiatorial shows 
fewer. Nor can we much censure Nero's design, if he ever 
entertained it, of aboUshing the senate and governing entirely 
through the civil service. The senate was in no sense a 
representative assembly and had never been a check on mis- 
government. There could be no more scathing verdict on 
a governing body than that of Tacitus on the abject senate of 
Nero's day. " As often as the emperor directed banishments 
or executions, so often was there a thanksgiving to the gods, 
and what formerly commemorated some prosperous event 
was then a token of pubhc disaster." ^ And Tacitus is a sena- 
torial partisan. 

We cannot pass as lightly over the murder of Nero's 
divorced wife Octavia, or over the great fire of 64. Tacitus 
leaves it in doubt whether this latter was accidental or de- 
hberate. Suetonius categorically states that Nero ordered it; 
and such was the popular belief at the time. If true, it would 
be proof positive of Nero's lunacy, to which many other 
indications point. Some of the details given by Suetonius 
can be dismissed as gossip. It cannot be true, for example, 
that Nero sang of the sack of Troy as he watched the fire ; 
for we know from Tacitus that he was away at Antium 
(Anzio) when it began, and did not return until the flames 
approached and destroyed his own palace. Tacitus mentions 
this musical entertainment as a " rumour," but places it on 
1 Annals, XIV, 64. 



100 THE EAST GOES WEST 

a " private stage " — presumably at Antium, not at Rome.^ 
Even if the charge of incendiarism is false, the fact that Nero 
could be credited with burning Rome is a measure of the 
unpopularity which he had accumulated in ten years. His 
accession had been welcomed with enthusiasm. The murder 
of Agrippina, though reprehensible, had been covered by the 
authority of Seneca and Burrus, and had left most people 
indifferent; for she was an evil woman. The execution of 
the slaves of Secundus had roused the populace ; but it was 
legal, and the odium had been shared with the senate. The 
divorce and murder of Octavia had shocked public opinion ; 
still it was a tragedy of the imperial family with which the 
people were but distantly concerned. The fire demon- 
strated, as nothing else had done, that the irresponsible lunacy 
of the head of the State could endanger not only senators and 
relations of the emperor, but the hearths and homes of ordinary 
citizens. 

Its main interest to the historian lies in its connection with 
the first recorded imperial persecution of Christianity. The 
account in Tacitus has been questioned, and is rejected almost 
as a matter of course by most of those who uphold the " myth " 
theory of Christian origins. But a vast majority of Latin 
scholars accept the Tacitean passage; there is nothing in- 
credible in it ; and it is borne out by Suetonius, who briefly, 
after his wont, enumerates the punishment of the Christians, 
** a class of men given to a new and mischievous superstition," 
among Nero's good actions.^ Tacitus is more informative. 
To divert suspicion from himself, he says, Nero punished as 
incendiaries " a class hated for their abominations, called 
Christians by the populace." They were the followers of 
one Christus, executed by Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. 
Repressed for the moment, the *' mischievous superstition " 
later spread from Judaea to Rome, " where all things hideous 
and shameful from every part of the world find their centre 
and become popular. Accordingly an arrest was first made 
of avowed Christians ; ^ then upon their information an 

1 Annals, XV, 39. ^ jsfero, XVI. 

^ The Latin qui fatebantur may mean either " avowed Christians " or 
** avowed incendiaries." 



THE EAST GOES WEST lOI 

immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime 
of firing the city as of hatred against mankind." ^ They 
were thrown to dogs, crucified, or burnt ahve. Yet, it seems, 
Nero defeated his own object; for the populace (the same 
populace who had pitied the slaves of Secundus) pitied the 
Christians too as the victims of his cruelty. 

There is no difficulty about this. The " immense multi- 
tude," which some fmd a stumbling-block, may have been 
less than a thousand. Such a number of convicted incen- 
diaries would seem startling, and therefore " immense," 
compared with the mere handful of Catilinarians put to 
death 126 years before. As a Roman moving in good 
society and repeatedly holding public office in the last quarter 
of the century, Tacitus had ample opportunities of finding 
out what had occurred when he himself was a small boy. 
He writes as we should expect him to write. The Christians 
are a mischievous sect founded by a condemned malefactor. 
They are part of that noxious stream of Oriental religions 
which has been infiltrating into Rome for many generations 
past. Even if they did not fire Rome, they are enemies of 
mankind. What a pity, then (he reflects), that their exem- 
plary punishment should have moved people to compassion 
just because it was inflicted by Nero ! 

A Christian forger, we may be sure, would not have written 
Hke this. He would not, as Tacitus does, have imputed 
*' abominations " or " hatred against mankind " to the 
infant Church. He would not, as Tacitus does, have made 
those first arrested give their brothers away. The hostile 
and contemptuous attitude to Christianity stamps the passage 
as authentic, and at the same time explains why no Christian 
writer refers to it until after the final victory of the new 
religion. It would have been an awkward passage to quote 
to a pagan public. Only those so wedded to the pure myth 
theory that they must condemn any apparently early testi- 
mony to the historicity of Jesus as ipso facto spurious will 
hesitate to accept the account as Tacitean. 

Whether he ordered it or not, the fire of 64 was the begin- 
ning of the end of Nero. It fmally alienated the Roman 
^ Annals, XV, 44. 



102 THE EAST GOES WEST 

populace, who persisted in believing him the author of the 
calamity; and it exhausted Italy and the provinces, which 
were compelled to contribute in money and material to the 
restoration of the capital and the erection of Nero's new 
palace. Roman exasperation showed itself in the so-called 
Pisonian conspiracy of 65, which had ramifications among 
all classes and in the armed forces, and failed only through 
the inability of one of the senators in the plot to keep his own 
counsel. The most striking feature of this mismanaged 
affair is the poltroonery with which these rich Romans, when 
arrested, denounced one another, and the bravery with which 
humbler folk faced torture and death in the same cause. 
Even Tacitus, who rarely has a good word for anyone of 
servile origin, is moved to admiration by the freedwoman 
Epicharis, who " had never before had a thought of anything 
noble " (one wonders how Tacitus knew that) but who 
strangled herself rather than betray under torture " strangers 
whom she hardly knew." ^ The soldiers, too, made good 
ends, one centurion telling Nero to his face that death was the 
best service he could have rendered to one so infamous. The 
detection of the conspiracy was followed by a reign of terror 
in which Seneca and many others perished. 

From 66 on the Annals are missing. Suetonius relates the 
end of the story : Nero's triumphal progress through Greece, 
which his mad brain believed " the only country with an ear 
for music and worthy of his artistic efforts "; ^ the revolt of 
the western provinces, Gaul and Spain, against his misgovem- 
ment; his desertion by the praetorian guard; and the last, 
sordid scene in his freedman's villa in the suburbs of Rome, 
when the fallen emperor tremblingly anticipated the sentence 
of his own servile senate by cutting his throat. 

So, in 68, ended the line of Augustus. The Histories of 
Tacitus, an earlier work than the Annals, deal in detail with 
the disastrous " year of four emperors " (Galba, Otho, Vitel- 
lius, Vespasian) which followed the death of Nero. In their 
original form the Histories extended to the death of Domitian 
in 96; but the fragment which survives tantalizingly breaks 
off just before the fall of Jerusalem in 70. The disappearance 
1 Annals, XV, 51, 57- ^ Nero, XXII. 



THE EAST GOES WEST IO3 

of the greater part of this history of his own times, covering 
as it did the youth and prime of Tacitus himself, is one of 
the major losses of hterature. We are driven to wonder 
whether this mutilation of the text of Tacitus, both at certain 
points of the Annals and by the excision of most of the His- 
tories, may be dehberate censorship designed to conceal facts 
compromising to Christianity. For the story of the destruc- 
tion of Jerusalem (from the point of view of world history 
the most important event of the period) we are dependent on 
the Jewish War of Josephus — a participator in the tragedy which 
he records, but a self-confessed double-dealer, sickeningly 
self-righteous, and not to be trusted an inch where his own 
conduct is involved. Suetonius deals in very summary- 
fashion with the same events, and is our only contemporary 
authority for the years from the end of the Jewish War to the 
death of Domitian. Unfortunately, his later lives are far 
poorer in detail than his earher and tail off at the end into 
httle more than disconnected notes. 

Both Josephus and Suetonius mention among the causes 
of the Jewish revolt what the former calls " an ambiguous 
oracle," and the latter "an old and estabhshed belief spread 
over all the Orient," that Judaea at that time would give a 
ruler to the world.^ Josephus, as a Romanized Jew concerned 
to conciliate his patrons, naturally minimizes the extent of 
this Messianic ferment. Suetonius has no such motive for 
concealing the truth. The plain fact is that the disaffection 
of the Oriental masses to their Western conquerors (a dis- 
affection dating from the successors of Alexander and not 
confmed to Jews, though fmding a focus and a rally ing- 
point in Jewish prophetic and apocalyptic literature) came to 
a head in the first century of our era. The subjection of 
Judaea to Roman rule and taxation, the agitation which led 
to the expulsion of Jews from Italy by Tiberius and Claudius, 
and the beginnings of the Christian movement (to which 
we shall return later) were so many milestones to the upheaval 
in which Judaism dashed itself to pieces against Roman 
imperialism. 

At the same time it would be wrong not to connect the 
^ Josephus, Jeu/15/i War, VI, 5, 4; Suetonius, Vespasian, IV. 



104 THE EAST GOES WEST 

Upheaval with the general debility of the empire in the last 
years of Nero. That emperor's insane extravagance, and in 
particular the sums laid out in rebuilding Rome after the fire 
of 64, had drained the provinces dry and led to universal 
discontent. Furthermore, a deep-seated weakness, more fatal 
than the idiosyncrasy of any emperor, was becoming manifest. 
The steel framework of the empire, the Italian soldiery that 
had built it, was disappearing. With the extinction of the 
free peasantry in spite of all efforts to recreate it, recruiting 
had dried up. The legions were now manned by Gauls, 
Germans, Illyrians, Thracians, Syrians — men whose loyalty 
was not to Rome nor to Italy, but to the commander who 
paid them best. 

The spark which kindled the Jewish revolt in 66 was the 
seizure of money from the Temple treasury by the pro- 
curator Florus and his savage repression of popular protests. 
The economic causes underlying the revolt are evident from 
the fact that one of the first acts of the Zealots was to bum 
all records of debt — " the nerves of the city," says the rich 
Josephus^ — and that both the rival ringleaders, John of 
Gischala and Simon Bargiora, recruited their followers from 
runaway slaves. 

But though the Jews were the first people to take up arms 
and the most desperate in their resistance to Rome, the 
uprising in the western provinces which ended Nero's reign 
shows that similar causes were at work elsewhere. Vindex, 
who first raised the standard of revolt in Gaul, was a Roman- 
ized provincial, and probably had in view not only the over- 
throw of Nero, but the recovery of Gallic independence. 
That at any rate was the view taken by the legions of the 
PJiine, who promptly crushed him and offered the empire 
to their own commander. For a year after Nero's death the 
Roman Empire was on the brink of disruption — the Jews in 
arms in the East; the lower Rliine and part of Gaul following 
suit in the West; the legions, east and west, and the prae- 
torians at Rome all fighting for their own hand. Disruption 
was averted because the subversive movements had no mutual 
cohesion. The western peoples, little as they might like 
^ Jewish War, II, 17, 6. 



THE EAST GOES WEST IO5 

imperial rule, iiad not yet evolved any kind of national unity 
to put in its place. In 69 the legions of the East and the 
Danube provinces raUied to Flavius Vespasianus, the com- 
mander in Judaea, for want of any reputable competitor, and 
imposed him by superior force on the distracted West. 
Rome, the titular mistress of the world, was sacked by an 
army mainly composed of Illyrians and Orientals. The 
senate hastened to ratify the accomphshed fact. The shadowy 
'* empire of the Gauls " melted away in a day. When it 
came to a choice between the pax Romana and an independence 
which they had not the faintest idea how to organize, the 
Gallic nobles chose peace. 

The Jews, who alone of the revolted peoples fought for an 
idea, were now isolated. Still they held out — " the slaves, 
the scum, the spurious and abortive offspring of our nation," 
says Josephus with the rancour of a renegade.^ Not until 
Titus, the son of Vespasian, had crucified thousands of Jews 
round the walls of Jerusalem pour encourager les autres ; not until 
the Temple had been fired and thousands more had perished 
in its flames ; not until the last of the Zealots, besieged in the 
stronghold of Masada, had killed their wives and children 
and then one another rather than fall into the hands of Rome, 
was the Jewish War over. Jews throughout the empire were 
thenceforth required to pay to the temple of Jupiter Capi- 
tolinus the tax formerly paid to the temple at Jerusalem. 
So ended the desperate attempt to set up the kingdom of 
heaven by force. 

Vespasian was the first emperor of Rome who was not a 
Roman by extraction. He came of a middle-class family of 
Reate (Rieti) in the Sabine uplands, and had no hereditary 
ties with the senatorial plutocracy, which was still theoretically 
the governing body of the Roman State. A professional 
soldier, owing his elevation to a largely Oriental army, he 
was far less inclined than Augustus, Tiberius, or Claudius to 
stand on constitutional ceremony, and frankly regarded 
himself as a dynastic monarch. " Either my sons will succeed 
me," he told the senate, " or no one." ^ Josephus, following 
what was no doubt the fashion among the richer Jews who had 
^ Jewish War, V, 10, 5. ^ Suetonius, Vespasiariy XXV. 



I06 THE EAST GOES WEST 

embraced the Roman cause, affects to see in Vespasian's acces- 
sion a fulfilment of Messianic prophecy; and Rome was 
content that such Jews as he should think so. The ten years* 
reign of Vespasian was mainly occupied in rescuing the fmances 
of the empire from the ruin to which Nero had brought 
them. He seems to have done this with method and success. 

Titus survived his father only two years. It was under 
Domitian, Vespasian's second son, that the full force of the 
new absolutism was felt. Domitian seems to have been a 
weak man over-conscious of his middle-class origin, for 
which he tried to compensate by an exaggerated parade of 
power ending in odious tyranny. Suetonius tells us that he 
was badly educated and read nothing except the memoirs 
and other papers of Tiberius — a clear case of a parvenu trying 
to model himself on a bom aristocrat. From Tiberius he 
learnt to administer ordinary justice well and to keep his pro- 
vincial governors in strict order. But he did what Tiberius 
had never done : he assumed divine honours in his lifetime 
and had himself styled " our Lord and God " in official 
documents. He supported this pretence to divinity by lavish 
gladiatorial and other shows, and by fussy and tyrannous 
meddling in morals and religion, even going so far as to revive 
the ferocious old practice (which had fallen into disuse) of 
burying alive a Vestal virgin convicted of unchastity. His 
hand lay heavy on the Jews, who were subjected to a rigorous 
inquisition to prevent evasion of the tax payable to the temple 
of Jupiter. Suetonius says that he himself saw an old man 
of ninety stripped in a crowded court to see if he was circum- 
cised. Moreover, the Jews were forbidden to make prose- 
lytes on pain of death or confiscation of property. 

These proceedings seem to have occasioned the first organ- 
ized persecution of Christians as such — as distinct from the 
adventitious charge of incendiarism on which they had 
suffered under Nero. Domitian's Jew-baiting revealed the 
fact that there were many who, in the words of Suetonius, 
" lived as Jews without acknowledging themselves as such."^ 
Secret adhesion to a community which had lately been in 
rebellion against Rome was obviously even more dangerous 
^ Domitian, XII. 



THE EAST GOES WEST IO7 

than open adhesion. There was a simple way in which supposed 
crypto-Jews, as we should call them, could clear themselves : 
by burning incense to the gods of Rome or to the emperor's 
statue they could prove themselves good subjects and leave 
the court without a stain on their character. The word 
went forth that that was to be the test. Most of those who 
suffered, whether as Jews or as Christians, were of small 
account ; but it must have caused a sensation in Rome when 
early in 96 the emperor s first cousin, Flavins Clemens, lately 
consul, was executed and his wife, Domitilla, banished on a 
charge of " atheism and Jewish practices." ^ There is no 
doubt that both were Christians. The oldest of the cata- 
combs lay in Domitilla's grounds. Another catacomb con- 
tains the epitaph of an Acihus Glabrio, possibly identical with 
or related to an ex-consul of that name put to death in 95 for 
" plotting revolution." ^ Eight months after the death of 
Clemens, Domitian was assassinated in his palace by a band 
of conspirators headed by Stephanus, the steward of Domi- 
tilla. We have no evidence that Stephanus was a Christian. 
But his employer was ; and only by presupposing the pacifism 
of all early Christians can we exclude a connection between 
the two events. 

For nearly two centuries from the death of Domitian, i.e. 
until the final decline of the Roman Empire, no contemporary 
histories are extant, and contemporary records of any sort, 
apart from inscriptions and coins, are very deficient. Our 
best wimess for the immediately ensuing years is the younger 
Pliny. He was the nephew of the great historian and natural 
philosopher who perished in 79 in the eruption of Vesuvius, 
and a friend of Tacitus and Suetonius. A wealthy man 
owning no fewer than six country houses, Pliny held many 
official posts under Domitian and Trajan, and has left us a 
voluminous correspondence extending from the end of 
Domitian's reign to his own governorship of Bithynia and 
Pontus in 111-113. We also have a lengthy and fulsome 

^ Suetonius does not give the charge against Clemens, merely mentioning 
his " contemptible laziness." Dio, writing a century later, specifies the 
offence. 

2 Domitian, X. 



I08 THE EAST GOES WEST 

speech (the Panegyric) in which he returns thanks to Trajan 
for nominating him consul in the year lOO. To supplement 
Pliny we have only the late history of Dio ; and this, for the 
period now reached, survives only in extracts made centuries 
later still. 

On the death of Domitian the empire was conferred by 
acclamation on Nerva, an elderly senator who had successfully 
survived the terrors of Nero and Domitian. He reversed his 
predecessor's policy, recalling all exiles and quashing all 
pending prosecutions, and initiated a useful programme of 
reform. But it soon became evident that no emperor, how- 
ever worthy, could reign without the support of the legions. 
To this end in 97 he adopted and associated in his government 
Trajan, the commander of the army of the Rhine; and when 
Nerva died after reigning only sixteen months, Trajan suc- 
ceeded him without opposition. 

Trajan was the first emperor who was not even Italian by 
birth. His father was a common legionary stationed in 
Spain who by good service rose from the ranks to be a consul 
and provincial governor. We read in Pliny's Panegyric of 
Trajan's unassuming manners ; of his concihation of the senate, 
soldiers, and people ; of the good discipline which he never- 
theless kept in the army ; and of the reform programme which 
he took over from Nerva and carried on — in particular, of 
the establishment of State maintenance and education of the 
children of poor but *free families in Italy. This was part of 
a last and, as it proved, forlorn attempt to re-create a free 
Italian peasantry and promote recruiting for the legions. 
For Trajan was first and last a soldier. If he conciliated the 
senate, it was because the senate was no longer the obstacle 
it had once been to the good government of the empire. 
From the reign of Vespasian onward the old Roman nobility, 
the plague of the early emperors, had been swamped by 
wealthy famihes of Italian or provincial origin, to whom 
Brutus and Cassius were names in a history book and not 
ancestors to be feverishly admired or feverishly repudiated. 
In fact wealthy provincials everywhere in the West were 
being rapidly Romanized. Tacitus in his Life of Agricola 
records the growing taste of British chiefs for Roman ban- 



THE EAST GOES WEST IO9 

quets, Roman baths, and Roman architecture, adding in his 
sour way : " This, in their innocence, they call civilization, 
when really it is part of their slavery.*'^ 

Under Trajan the Roman Empire reached its peak of 
external power and splendour. The conquest of Dacia in 
106 (commemorated on his column at Rome) and its planta- 
tion with Latin-speaking colonists left a permanent mark 
on the map of Europe. Even today, after seventeen centuries 
of Teutonic, Turanian, and Slav conquest and racial admixture, 
that people of the lower Danube still speak a Romance lan- 
guage and call themselves Ruman. The colossal gladiatorial 
shows given at Trajan's triumph, with the slaughter of ten 
thousand men and eleven thousand beasts, show that if he had 
the qualities, he had also decidedly the hmitations of a Roman 
general. 

Most important of the historical records of Trajan's reign 
is his correspondence with Pliny during the latter's governor- 
ship of Bithynia and Pontus. Pliny was sent out to remedy 
the considerable disorder into which those provinces had 
fallen under previous senatorial governors. One example of 
that disorder was subversive rehgious propaganda, which 
had gone to such a length in the two provinces that temples 
were almost deserted and sacrificial animals found very few 
purchasers. Pliny's first action, taken under Trajan's direc- 
tion, was to ban under penalties any sort of guild or association 
(collegium) : even a fire-brigade was forbidden lest it should 
turn into a political club. Under this edict a large number 
of Christians were arrested. This time there is no question of 
Jews. The proceedings at the end of Domitian's reign had 
made plain to the authorities the difference between the two. 
But Domitian's measures were an unsafe precedent. After 
inducing many to worship the gods, bum incense before the 
emperor's statue, and revile Christ, and executing a certain 
number of recalcitrants, Pliny grew uneasy and wrote to 
Trajan for instructions. Investigations on the spot, he sub- 
mits, have failed to establish any criminal act on the part of 
the Christians of Bithynia except that they pay divine honours 
to Christ. In this they are guilty of a " perverse and extrava- 
^ Agricola, 21. 



no THE EAST GOES WEST 

gant superstition " ^ which alone, thinks Phny, ought to be 
punished. Trajan's reply approves Pliny's action. Chris- 
tians are not to be hunted out; no action is to be taken on 
anonymous information ; but if Christians are charged, they 
are to be punished unless they deny Christianity and prove 
their denial by worshipping the gods of Rome. The corre- 
spondence makes it clear that Christians were punished not 
for their opinions, nor for the crimes imputed to them by 
common report (which Pliny does not beheve), but as bad 
citizens, and that their bad citizenship consisted in proclaiming 
Christ to be more worthy of worship than the head of the 
State or the gods of the State. On the whole this tells in 
favour of the historicity of Jesus. The worship of a strange 
god would not in itself have troubled the authorities. They 
had long learnt to tolerate strange gods. They no longer 
proscribed, as they had once done, the cult of Bacchus or of 
Isis. But the cult of an executed rebel was another thing. 
Trajan was prepared to ignore it in holes and comers, but was 
not prepared to allow it in the light of day. 

Trajan's prosperous reign ended in disaster. In 113 he 
became involved in war with Parthia, and by 116 had carried 
the Roman eagles to the Persian Gulf. The Jews, doubtless 
in collusion with the other Oriental enemies of Rome, rose 
in his rear and avenged the destruction of Jerusalem on the 
Greek populations of Cyprus and Cyrene. Trajan had to 
retreat, and in 117, before the Jewish revolt was stamped out, 
he died — probably more than ever convinced that the v^enera- 
tion of Jewish Messiahs, dead or alive, was a danger to the 
State. 

From the last years of Trajan onward our only contem- 
porary evidence is that of inscriptions and coins. Hadrian, 
his cousin and successor, wrote an autobiography which we 
would give much to possess and which served as material for 
later historians. But the earliest extant literary evidence 
consists of extracts from the later books of Dio, and the next 
earliest is the Augustan History, an uncritical and superficial 
set of lives of the later emperors compiled in the third and 
fourth centuries by writers of whom we know nothing. So 
^ Pliny, Letters, X, 97. 



THE EAST GOES WEST III 

devoid of any literary or scientific merit are the ancient 
authorities that most readers will prefer to approach the 
period through the masterly compilation of Gibbon or the 
more up-to-date scholarship of Bury and other moderns. 

Hadrian abandoned Trajan's eastern conquests as untenable, 
and devoted the rest of his reign to the internal reform of 
the empire. He is remarkable for his humane legislation on 
behalf of slaves. The period of imperial expansion was now 
over. The slave-owning class could no longer rely on the 
armies for a continual supply of cheap human chattels. It 
was therefore necessary on grounds of economy as well as 
humanity to protect the labour force of the empire from 
wanton wastage. Hadrian deprived owners of the power of 
hfe and death, extended to slaves the protection of the courts, 
and prohibited their sale for gladiatorial purposes or for 
prostitution. He also began the work of reducing the un- 
wieldy mass of Roman law to a codified system. The tragedy 
is that these enlightened reforms came too late. The Roman 
Empire was dying from the centre outwards. Italy and 
Sicily had long since been ruined by mass slavery. The only 
Hving parts of the body pohtic were the frontier provinces, 
and they were knit together by no common bond except 
a negative interest in peace — while peace could last. Hadrian 
himself, probably with the best of intentions, provoked a 
new Jewish revolt by his prohibition of circumcision and his 
erection of a temple to Jupiter on the site of the demolished 
temple of Jerusalem. From 132 to 135 Palestine was deluged 
in blood in this last, desperate clash between the Gentile and 
Jewish ways of life. It ended in the uprooting of the Jews 
from their homeland for eighteen hundred years. 

The reformist pohcy of Hadrian was continued by his two 
successors, Antoninus (138-161) and Marcus Aurelius (161- 
180). Gibbon ascribes the paucity of materials for the history 
of this era to its relative exemption from " the crimes, follies, 
and misfortunes of mankind." ^ A more hkely reason is 
that the Roman world had ceased to produce historians able 
and willing to deal with contemporary events. Appian and 
Arrian, both of whom belong to the Antonine age, chose to 
^ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. III.^ 



112 THE EAST GOES WEST 

write of the past rather than their own times. Indeed, it is 
characteristic of the age that nearly all its writers lived in and 
on the past. Ptolemy of Alexandria in his mathematical, 
astronomical, and geographical work summarized and arranged 
the discoveries of his predecessors, particularly of Hipparchus, 
but added nothing useful of his own. Pausanias, an Asiatic 
Greek and a plodding and commonplace antiquarian, wrote 
a guide-book to the Greece of his day which has proved a 
gold-mine to modem anthropologists. Lucian of Samosata 
is a brilliant exception to the flat mediocrity of his contem- 
poraries. The Voltaire of his age, he lashes with impartial 
wit gods and philosophers, the paganism which had degener- 
ated into a hypocritical racket and the Christian fanaticism 
which aspired to supersede it. Galen, another Asiatic Greek, 
made important contributions to medicine. All these writers, 
it will be noted, came from the eastern half of the empire. 
The only two extant Latin authors of the time, Fronto and 
Apuleius, came from Roman Africa. They show their 
obsession with the past by trying to revive a pre-classical 
form of Latin — which is much as if a present-day English 
author were to write in the idioms of Shakespeare and the 
Authorized Version of the Bible. Rome and Italy are un- 
represented, unless we include Fronto's pupil, Marcus 
Aurelius; and he, though Roman by birth, was Spanish 
by extraction. Worn out by public and private cares, facing 
enemies external and internal, the Stoic emperor governed 
without hope an empire without a future. The other authors 
of the time are rhetoricians or grammarians who spend their 
ingenuity on commentaries on dead masterpieces or in com- 
posing imaginary speeches, letters, and table-talk on dead or 
trivial subjects. It is the literature of an age which has 
forgotten all the arts except that of elegantly saying nothing. 
The wonder is not that the empire declined and fell, but 
that it stood as long as it did. By the time of Marcus the 
structure was beginning to give way under the weight of its 
own defences. The barbarians were still held at bay, but 
only by enlisting other barbarians against them. After twelve 
years (180-192) of misgovernment by his maniac son Com- 
modus (another bad advertisement of the hereditary prin- 



THE EAST GOES WEST II3 

ciple), rival armies again fought over the dying empire. 
Finally Septimius Severus, an African by birth who spoke 
Latin with a Punic accent, defeated his competitors and im- 
posed an African dynasty on the Roman world. Hannibal 
was avenged. Africans were to be succeeded in due course 
by Syrians, Thracians, Arabs, and Illyrians, but never again, 
except for fleeting moments, by a Roman. 

While conquered provinces turned the tables on their con- 
querors, a religion of the conquered, in the teeth of persecution 
which, though savage at times and places, was never sus- 
tained or universal, continued to undermine the religion of 
the State. Its advocates might be fanatics, but at least they 
had something to say. In 197, the year which saw the final 
victory of Severus, his countryman TertuUian^ addressed a 
manifesto to the imperial authorities on behalf of the Christians 
in language vibrating with defiance. 

" We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every- 
thing you have — cities, islands, forts, towns, exchanges, 
yes ! and camps, tribes, town councils, palace, senate, 
forum. All we have left to you is the temples ! . . . Go 
to it ! my good magistrates. . . . Torture us, rack us, 
condemn us, crush us. . . . The blood of Christians is 
seed. . . . We are condemned by you, we are acquitted 
by God." 2 

Severus did not think so. He prohibited conversion to 
Judaism or Christianity under heavy penalties. The day of 
the Christians was not yet. But the exhaustion of Italy, the 
impoverishment of the old Roman nobihty, the humiliation 
of the senate, and the transfer of power to provincial armies 
and provincial generals were pointers to the eventual victory 
of the Church. 

^ Perhaps even his distant kinsman. Tertullian too was a Septimius. 
2 Tertullian, Apology, XXXVII, 4; L, 12, 13, 16. 



CHAPTER X 

SACP^D HISTORY 

BUT what was this Church, this assembly or association 
{ekklesia) of apparently insignificant people, which in 
the first century began to disturb the peace of the 
Roman Empire, in the second began to be regarded as a 
standing nuisance, in the third became a serious rival to the 
imperial government, and in the fourth forced it to come to 
terms ? 

History has not yet answered the question. Indeed, it 
may be said that professional historians have not yet even 
begun to ask it. The lines of historical research are adapted 
to an educational system which assumes as its foundation 
the truth of dogmatic religion. In conformity with that 
assumption, ancient history is divided into two departments 
and its teaching entrusted to two different faculties of experts. 
The historian proper deals with " secular " history (known 
in the curriculum simply as " history "), that is with events 
in which natural causes are presupposed and which he accord- 
ingly interprets by ordinary canons of probability. The 
theologian deals with " sacred " history (known in the curri- 
culum as " scripture " or " divinity "), that is with events 
in which, divine intervention being presupposed, ordinary 
canons of probability may at need be set aside. The historian, 
being a busy man and as a rule uninterested in theology, 
usually treats Judaism and Christianity as facts which it is 
beyond his province to explain. Even Gibbon, it will be 
remembered, in his fifteenth chapter abandons to the theologian 
" the pleasing task of describing Religion as she descended 
from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity," and reserves to 
the historian the " more melancholy duty " of discovering 
*' the inevitable mixture of error and corruption, which she 
contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and 

114 



SACRED HISTORY II5 

degenerate race of beings." Much more do the professional 
historians of today keep off the forbidden grass. The 
theologian, who as a rule is not a historian, is thus able to 
pursue his " pleasing task " undisturbed except by free- 
lances whom, since they hold no academic posts and have 
hmited leisure for research, he can plausibly ignore as un- 
qualified poachers on his domain. 

The result is that, side by side with the secular history of 
antiquity reproduced in essence in the last few chapters, we 
learn in our youth a sacred history based on the books of the 
Old and New Testaments. Naturally there are points of 
contact between the two. Sacred history would not even 
be plausible if there were not. But the two are qualitatively 
different. While the events of secular history (allowing for 
differences in the economic, social, political, and cultural 
environment) are of an order identical with that of events in 
the world of today and are connected with them by a con- 
tinuous process, sacred history, on the other hand, is presented 
to us as a divine dispensation attested by a series of miraculous 
events different in kind from anything which we should 
accept if recorded by a secular narrator of the past or present, 
or by a sacred historian of any other religion. Most of those 
who believe or think that they believe in the miracles of the 
Bible, or at any rate of the New Testament, would dismiss 
as unbalanced anyone who told them that anything of the 
kind (say a virgin birth, a resurrection, or an ascension) had 
occurred in the next street. Miracles do not happen now — 
even if they formerly did. Secular history goes on ; sacred 
history stopped when the canon of the New Testament was 
closed. The Catholic Church sees the difficulty, and provides 
for the benefit of the faithful a continuation of sacred history 
in the lives of the saints and in such miraculous happenings 
as those at Loreto, Naples, and Lourdes.^ But these are 

^ According to a story dating from the late Middle Ages, the house of 
the Holy Family at Nazareth was carried by angels (in three hops) to 
Loreto in Italy, where it is still on show. The blood of Januarius, patron 
saint of Naples, is preserved in the cathedral and pubhcly liquefies twice a 
year. The organized pilgrimages and " cures " at Lourdes are highly 
lucrative to the Church, the hotels, and the railways. 



Il6 SACRED HISTORY 

Strictly for the benefit of the faithful. They occur and recur 
only among ignorant peasants or before highly suggestible 
CathoHc crowds. 

The problem before the historian is to fit what can be 
known of Jewish and Christian origins into the secular history 
of antiquity. The theologian fmds this perfectly simple. 
At a remote date, perhaps contemporary with the eighteenth 
dynasty in Egypt (fifteenth or fourteenth century B.C.), the 
Creator of the universe revealed himself to some nomad 
tribes held in serfdom by the Pharaohs. Miraculously de- 
livered from Egyptian bondage, Israel took possession of 
Palestine and estabhshed there a cult and commonwealth 
purer than any previously known to history. Their descend- 
ants, however, degenerated and, in spite of prophetic warnings, 
became no better than die idolatrous peoples around them. 
They consequently lost their independence and were de- 
ported to Assyria and Babylonia. Under the Persian Empire 
a righteous remnant were re-established at Jerusalem; and 
inspired prophets foretold that in the fullness of time the world 
order would be overthrown and all nations be converted to 
the Jewish way of life and live in peace under a heaven-sent 
ruler. So far Jewish and Christian tradition agrees. Chris- 
tian theology adds that under the Roman Empire the fmal 
divine revelation took place; that God became man in the 
person of Jesus Christ, the predicted Messiah; that the Jews, 
in spite of the evidence of miracles wrought before their very 
eyes, blindly rejected him and gave him up to be crucified 
by the procurator, Pontius Pilate; and that Christ, risen 
from the dead, founded a Church to proclaim his kingdom 
to all nations and to inherit the privileges forfeited by the 
unbeheving Jews. 

The historian, unless he is content to leave his work half 
done, is bound to demand as stringent evidence for these 
statements as for any others purporting to relate to historical 
facts. One difference between secular and sacred history at 
once leaps to the eye. We derive our knowledge of secular 
history from authors of whom we know in nearly every case 
the names and dates, and in many cases even the hfe-stories — 
Herodotus of HaHcamassus, Thucydides of Athens, Polybius 



SACRED HISTORY II7 

of Megalopolis, Livy of Padua, Plutarch of Chaeronea, Appian 
of Alexandria, Arrian of Nicomedia, and so forth. Some of 
them were wholly or partly contemporary with the events 
they relate; others, though they hved centuries later, at least 
had access to contemporary authorities, some of whom they 
name, and, if they make mistakes, can be checked by the evi- 
dence of other historians or of inscriptions and coins. But 
when we turn to sacred history we are confronted for the most 
part with anonymous writings, the dates of which have to be 
inferred from such external and internal evidence as is available. 
Even those writings which contain evidence of authorship 
are often demonstrably composite or spurious. Moreover 
these anonymous, pseudonymous, or at best precariously 
authenticated works are nearly all written with a purpose; 
and that purpose is not impartial history, but partisan propa- 
ganda, from which edifying fiction is naturally not excluded. 
To put the propaganda of a cult on the same level as critical 
history is contrary to every canon of scientific inquiry. 
None of us would dream of doing it if we had not been 
taught in youth to think that in matters of reHgion belief is 
a duty and unbelief a crime. 

A critical study of Judaism and Christianity starts with cer- 
tain known data. In the sunset of Asiatic civilization — ^when 
Babylonia and Egypt have fallen a prey to Persia, herself soon 
to fall a prey to Greece — a Jewish community with a peculiar 
religion, a peculiar code of law, and a peculiar prophetic 
Uterature is found established around Jerusalem. In the 
sunset of Graeco-Roman civilization — when Rome, after 
reaching the peak of her imperial expansion, hovers on the 
brink of her decline and fall — a Christian community, which 
has made the Jewish religion and literature its own, though 
with vital differences of interpretation, is found troubling the 
peace of Graeco-Roman society. We have no right to assume 
without proof that these people were the recipients of a divine 
revelation. But we have equally no right to assume without 
proof that they were knaves or fools. They were people 
basically like ourselves, but without our command over 
nature, our knowledge of the world we live in, our distrust 
of the marvellous, or our means of checking and verifying 



Il8 SACRED HISTORY 

what we hear or read. We have to explain the data by causes 
known to have operated in ancient society. 

The sacred history common to Judaism and Christianity 
is contained in the books of the Old Testament. These fall 
traditionally into three divisions. The first five books, the 
Pentateuch or " law of Moses," are accepted not only by Jews 
and Christians, but by the Samaritan community, of which 
a tiny remnant survives in Palestine today. As the Jewish 
and Samaritan communities broke away from each other in 
the fourth or fifth century B.C. and had no further mutual 
dealings, the Pentateuch must have existed then. But it 
cannot in its present form be much older than that. For 
the Pentateuch prescribes a rigorous monotheism, and hmits 
the priestly office, and with it the right to offer sacrifice, to 
the descendants of Aaron. This is in accordance with the 
practice of Judaism from that time, but not with old Israehtish 
practice as portrayed in the books of Judges, Samuel, and 
Kings, where idolatry is the rule rather than the exception 
and where laymen offer sacrifice and, in notable instances, 
even human sacrifice without a word of reprobation. The 
Pentateuch, therefore, in its present form is later than the old 
kingdoms of Israel and Judah; and although it embodies 
strata much older than the date of its compilation, there is 
no reason to suppose that any part is anything like contem- 
porary with the events which it purports to relate. 

It is therefore not surprising that Egyptian monuments 
should have failed to confirm the traditional bondage of 
Israel in the land of Egypt. The first mention of Israel is 
on a monument of about 1200 B.C. recording the conquest by 
Pharaoh Merenptah (nineteenth dynasty) of that and other 
tribes in Palestine — an event not mentioned in the Bible. 
We cannot dogmatically deny that there was ever an Egyptian 
oppression. Under the eighteenth dynasty Palestine and 
Syria had been part of a great Egyptian Empire, and Egypt 
had been filled with plunder, tribute, and slaves, among whom 
no doubt were many Semitic tribesmen. But the detailed 
history of that age cannot be reconstructed from writings 
compiled with a religious purpose a thousand years later. 

Outside the Old Testament we do not hear of Israel again 



SACRED HISTORY II9 

until the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., when Assyria pushes 
westward, imposes tribute on the petty kingdoms of Syria 
and Palestine, and finally, after a revolt, deports twenty- 
seven thousand fsraehtes and replaces them by colonists from 
other parts of her empire. There is no evidence that Israel 
or Judah at this time worshipped one God, or that their 
rehgion differed materially from those of other petty peoples 
in that part of the world. 

It is, however, in these and the following centuries — the 
period when Assyrian armies were wasting, slaying, and 
raking in plunder and tribute, until Assyria tottered to her 
fall under the onset of Scythian savages from the north, and 
the Medes and Babylonians partitioned her empire between 
them, and Persia in turn mopped up Media and Babylonia — 
that we must date the origin of Judaism. Western Asia must 
have been a scene of appalling misery. Man found it too 
much. His gods — the personifications of his social group, 
made in his own image — had let him down. Prophets, free- 
lance soothsayers opposed to the official priesthoods, began to 
inveigh against the established cults, to denounce usury, 
oppression, bribery, and forced labour, to organize, and to 
put forth literature. Prophets were not peculiar to Palestine ; 
but conditions in Palestine favoured their multiplication. 
Palestine was the last country in Western Asia to be devoured 
by Assyria. While petty kingdoms to the north were being 
slowly annexed, Israel and Judah enjoyed a temporary respite 
of which the prophets made full use. Moreover, although 
Palestine was constantly fought over by great military em- 
pires, yet, until Rome appeared on the scene, none of them 
held it securely, and few of them held it long. This inse- 
curity of tenure was favourable to movements of revolt. 
The hope of deliverance from oppression lived on and flickered 
up again and again in Palestine long after it had been extin- 
guished elsewhere. 

The prophetic writings — the second of the three traditional 
divisions of the Jewish Bible — are the oldest revolutionary 
literature that has come down to us. Unfortunately they 
have come down much interpolated and corrupted — so much 
so that some parts are almost unintelligible. After all, what 



120 SACRED HISTORY 

can we expect? These writings were the production of an 
opposition party and, to a large extent, of what we should 
now call an underground movement. They passed from 
hand to hand and were interpolated according to taste from 
generation to generation. Naturally the original writings 
became overlaid with later matter, and passages, topical when 
they were written, were reduced to gibberish by copyists 
ignorant of their meaning. Add that in many cases the 
meaning must have been deliberately veiled to elude the 
attentions of the authorities ; and the obscurity of much of 
the prophetic hterature will not surprise us. Yet, when all 
is said and done, one fact stands out. So far as it is inteUigible, 
the message of the prophets is one of revolt against wealth 
and privilege, particularly of the official priesthoods. There 
are few franker pieces of anti-clericalism in all literature than 
the outbursts of Amos and Isaiah against feasts and solemn 
assembhes, burnt offerings and meal offerings, new moons and 
sabbaths. But, scientific Rationahsm being as yet unknown, 
the opponents of estabhshed cults had to speak in the name of 
some god. In claiming to speak in the name of Jah or 
Jahveh, the ancestral god of Israel, the prophets appealed from 
an evil present to an idealized past of desert simplicity, when 
there had been no sacrifices, no temple, no forced labour, and 
no usury. That ideal past was a mirage : the nomadic ances- 
tors of Israel had been savages, and Jah a bloodstained idol. 
But by turning him into the champion of the poor against 
their oppressors the prophets built better than they knew. 

As official cults and priesthoods were more and more dis- 
credited by the disasters of the time, the priests of Jerusalem 
were forced in self-defence to adopt the reform programme 
and to incorporate it in the law-book now called Deuteronomy. 
There is to be no God but one and no place of worship but 
one; other sanctuaries are to be destroyed; usury is for- 
bidden ; there is to be a periodic cancellation of debts ; the 
peasant and the slave are protected ; military service is volun- 
tary. Soon afterwards the destruction of the Jewish kingdom 
by Nebuchadnezzar cleared the path for the new Judaism. 
The whole history of Israel was rewritten by the prophetic 
party to fit their thesis : we have the result of their labours 



SACRED HISTORY 121 

in the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings, the compilers of 
which condemn ex post facto the idolatry they are obhged to 
record. When in due course the temple was rebuilt and 
Jerusalem re-fortified under the Persian Empire, the new 
community was a theocracy, " the people of a book " — the 
newly compiled Pentateuch, in which the early folk-lore of 
Israel is deftly dovetailed into Deuteronomy and the later 
Priestly Code, and the whole passed off as the thousand- 
year-old law of Moses from which the nation had sinfully 
deviated during the intervening centuries. The protection 
granted by the Persian Empire to the new theocratic com- 
munity at Jerusalem is probably to be explained by the weak 
situation of Persia after her failure to conquer Greece, and by 
the vital necessity of placing the approaches to Egypt in the 
hands of a loyal vassal. 

But the priestly aristocracy had yielded to the reformers 
only under duress. Throughout the period of the second 
temple there were struggles between the hierarchy of Jeru- 
salem (after the conquests of Alexander increasingly per- 
meated by Hellenism) and those Jews, the lineal successors of 
the prophetic party, to whom Judaism was not just a local 
cult but a movement to be propagated among the nations 
until it had revolutionized the world. We catch the echoes 
of this propagandist Judaism in the later prophetic writings 
(Deutero-Isaiah, Haggai, Zechariah), in many of the Psalms, 
and above all in the book of Daniel and in other apocalyptic 
works not included in the Bible. The struggle emerges into 
the hght of history in the attempt of Antiochus IV to suppress 
Judaism and in the successful Maccabean resistance. In apoca- 
lyptic literature popular Judaism vents its hatred of the robber 
empires which one after another devour mankind, and its 
aspirations for a millennial reign of righteousness on earth. 
By the second century B.C., therefore, Jewish sacred writings 
fell into three categories — the law, recognized by all Jews 
and even by Samaritans; the prophets; and books not in- 
cluded in either class and not yet at that date reduced to a 
cut-and-dried canon. 

So far our conclusions would be endorsed by most Biblical 
scholars not tied hand and foot to Fundamentalism. It is 



122 SACRED HISTORY 

Otherwise when we approach the origins of Christianity. 
For here we are deahng with a revolution of the past whose 
true history has never been written, and whose ostensible 
history is an officially propagated myth deemed by its de- 
fenders to be essential to the existence of civilization itself— 
even as the worship of the gods and deified emperors was 
deemed in its day to be essential to the existence o£ pax Ro- 
mana. But humanity is a hardy plant. As the gods and 
deified emperors departed, and ancient civilization with them, 
leaving men and women just as determined as before to go on 
Hving, so perhaps is the Christian myth, and with it much of 
what doubtfully passes as civilization, destined to depart and 
to leave us wondering why we ever deemed these frail products 
of time to be eternal. 

After the Maccabean victory pious Jews [Hasidim, later 
Pharisees) may have beheved for a moment that the " Ancient 
of Days " had established a kingdom of the " son of man " 
which in due course would destroy the beast-empires around 
it and inaugurate universal justice.^ They were soon unde- 
ceived. The later Hasmonaean rulers, especially Alexander 
Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.), to whom the priestly aristocracy 
(Sadducees) had now raUied, crushed popular opposition by 
massacre and crucifixion. The civil war between Alexander's 
two sons led in 63 to the intervention of Pompey and to the 
conquest of Judaea by Rome. The Jewish people still cher- 
ished the prophetic dream of a kingdom of God on earth, 
but they began to despair of its realization by human agency. 
Some still hoped for an earthly leader, an anointed king or 
Messiah, who would put down princes from their thrones 
and exalt them of low degree. Others looked for redemption 
by supernatural agency — by some hero of the past (say 
Joshua) who would come again to deliver his people, or by 
some Son of Man from the clouds. We have examples of 
these dreams in the apocalyptic book of Enoch, and in a 
commentary on the prophet Habakkuk discovered in 1947 
with other scrolls in a cave near the Dead Sea. In this scroll 

^ Dan. vii, 9-14. " Son of man " in this context means simply *' man " 
as opposed to " beast ". The phrase has not yet the Messianic sense which 
it takes on in later apocalyptic. 



SACRED HISTORY 123 

the writer refers to the persecution of the sect to which he 
belonged (conjectured to have been the Essenes, a sort of 
Pharisee " left wing ") and to the torture and execution of 
its leader, the " master of justice," by a high priest who from 
other data must be identical with Aristobulus II, one of the 
sons of Alexander Jannaeus. The capture of Jerusalem by 
Pompey is a judgment on this crime. Further judgment is 
in store : the executed leader will return, put to confusion 
the reigning high priest (Hyrcanus II, brother of Aristobulus), 
and judge Israel and all nations. Only those who beheve in 
the " master of justice " will be saved. This important dis- 
covery proves that the idea of a Messiah triumphant over 
suffering and death was already current a century before the 
rise of Christianity.^ 

Messianic expectations were not confined to Palestine. 
In the centuries since Alexander the Great, Jewish colonies 
had sprung up in all the chief Mediterranean cities — Alex- 
andria, Antioch, Cyrene, Ephesus, Corinth, Rome itself 
Some of these Jews of the diaspora were prosperous, especially 
at Alexandria, where they were favoured by the Ptolemies. 
But most were in humble walks of life — slaves, freedmen, 
petty traders. They spoke Greek as the common language of 
Mediterranean civilization, they used the Greek version of the 
scriptures, and they tried to convert their neighbours to the 
Jewish dream of the kingdom of God on earth. Their neigh- 
bours were inclined to listen. Most of them, too, were slaves 
or freedmen. They, too, felt the world to be evil and were 
seeking compensation in dreams. Many found in the various 
'' mystery " cults — those of Dionysus, Attis, Isis, Mithra — 
something to take the place of the communal life from 
which they had been uprooted. But Judaism promised them 
something in this world. Thousands were converted — carry- 
ing with them into Judaism scraps of myth from the mystery- 
cults they abandoned. We have already seen the alarm 
occasioned to the Roman government by these conversions 
and the sharp action taken against them by Tiberius and later 
emperors. 

^ See the article, ** New Light on Habakkuk," in The Times, May 30, 
1950. 



124 SACRED HISTORY 

But it was not only the Romans who had cause for alarm. 
Well-to-do Jews of the stamp of Philo of Alexandria, with a 
Greek education and a stake in the world, had reason to fear 
this Messianic ferment among the masses. They tried to 
conciUate the Greek world ; to restate Judaism in terms of 
Greek philosophy ; to identify Jahveh with the Absolute of 
the metaphysicians, and the word by which he created heaven 
and earth with the Stoic logos, the reason immanent in nature 
and in man ; and to interpret the rest of the Jewish Bible in 
the same allegorical fashion. To these ingenious escapists or 
*' Gnostics " propaganda about the kingdom of God on earth 
and about a Messiah who would execute vengeance on the 
rich and great was very disturbing. It could only lead to a 
head-on colhsion between the Jewish community and Rome 
— a colhsion in which Rome might not draw nice distinctions 
between Jew and Jew. 

We are now in a position to weigh the available docu- 
mentary evidence on the subject of Christian origins. That 
evidence is contained in the books of the New Testament, 
supplemented by other early Christian writings and by such 
pagan testimony as is available. 

Any critical student of early Christian documents must be 
struck by their contradictory character. Not only do they 
contradict one another on plain matters of fact, but the doc- 
trine propagated is different in different documents. The 
Pauline Epistles, for example, which, in so far as they are 
genuine, are the oldest Christian writings we possess, are good 
evidence of the kind of propaganda conducted by some 
Greek-speaking missionaries in the second half of the first 
century. They have next to nothing to say of the life, and 
nothing of the teaching of the traditional founder of Chris- 
tianity. They are concerned first and foremost with a divine 
figure called Jesus Christ, said to have been crucified by " the 
rulers of this world " ^ and to have risen from the dead in 
order that believers in him may rise from death to eternal 
Hfe. We have here a saviour-god of a type famihar in the 
mystery-cults : in fact Paul himself calls his doctrine a " mys- 

^ I Cor. ii, 8. The Greek archontes tou aionos toutou is Gnostic and 
means demons, not men. 



SACRED HISTORY I25 

tery " and his converts " initiates " (teleioi)} Paul represents 
himself (or is represented by his impersonators) as having 
received his doctrine from no human source, but from Christ 
himself by revelation. For the most part the Epistles refer to 
Christ in terms appropriate only to a god — the projection 
and personification of the society which v^orships him. 
" We, who are many, are one body in Christ." ^ " Ye 
are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof." ^ 
Only very rarely has the Pauline Christ the attributes of a 
man, " bom of the seed of David according to the flesh," ^ 
with human " brethren " known to Paul.^ 

Theology overcomes the contradiction by proclaiming 
that Christ was true God and true man. But the extreme 
paucity of these Pauline references to a human Jesus is easier 
to explain if we regard them as later interpolations in docu- 
ments which originally related only to the saviour-god of a 
mystery-cult. By no possibility can the Epistles have been 
written to propagate the teaching of a human founder. They 
do not record or even cite it. 

If we turn from the Pauline Epistles to a document of a 
very different tendency, the Joharmine Apocalypse, written 
in Asia Minor under Domitian, we still fmd scarcely any trace 
of a human Jesus. The Christ of the Apocalypse is " the 
first and the last," " the beginning of the creation of God." ^ 
By a mysterious death, suffered apparently " from the founda- 
tion of the world," ^ he has purchased an earthly kingdom 
for " men of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation " ^ 
— a kingdom to be erected on the smoking ruins of the 
persecuting power of Rome. Only once is the Lord said 
to have been crucified in an earthly city; and that may be 
an interpolation.^ In the case of the Apocalypse we must 
make some allowance for figurative and poetical language. 
Still, such facts as the above have been legitimately used 

^ I Cor, ii, 6-7. Teleioi is translated in our Bibles " perfect " — the 
Revised Version adding a footnote " full-grown." But the word is 
borrowed from the mystery-cults. 

2 Rom. xii, 5. ^ i Cor. xii, 27. * Rom. i, 3. 

^ I Cor. ix, 5 ; Gal. i, 19. ^ Rev. i, 17 ; iii, 14. 

' Rev. xiii, 8. ® Rev. v, 9-10. ^ Rev. xi, 8. 



126 SACRED HISTORY 

to support the theory that Jesus is wholly a mythical 
figure. 

But the myth theory is an over-simplification. When we 
turn to the Synoptic Gospels we are confronted with documents 
which are clearly composite. In their present form they are 
not very much earher than the middle of the second century, 
but they are compiled from material some of which is demon- 
strably generations older. A comparison of Matthew, 
Mark, and Luke shows that they are based on a common 
source or sources (sometimes appearing in almost identical 
language in all three, sometimes only in two) which internal 
evidence proves to be not far removed in date from the 
destruction of the temple in a.d. 70. In one such source 
Jesus is made to predict that event in so many words (" there 
shall not be left here one stone upon another, which shall 
not be thrown down " ^) and to add a more detailed prophecy 
of the horrors leading up to it. The catastrophe will be 
followed (Matthew says " immediately," Mark " in those 
days," Luke implies an interval) by the coming of the Son of 
Man " in power and great glory." In all three, " this genera- 
tion shall not pass away, until all be accomplished." ^ Such 
a prophecy cannot have originated much after the events of 
70. Cognate passages elsewhere in the Synoptics, such as 
the woes again and again denounced on Jerusalem, suggest 
that the nucleus of the Gospel story took shape under the 
immediate impact of the horrors of that time. 

Now it is remarkable that in the Gospel strata used by two 
or three Synoptics, and by that criterion relatively early, 
Jesus is not only not God, but manifestly a man with human 
Hmitations and weaknesses. At the outset he is depicted as 
tempted by the devil — an experience conceivable in a man, 
but not in a God who cannot sin. At the end he cries that 
God has forsaken him. Supposing these stories to be invented, 

^ Matt, xxiv, 2 ; Mark xiii, 2 ; Luke xxi, 6. 

2 Matt, xxiv, 29-34; Mark xiii, 24-30; Luke xxi, 24-32. The theory, 
vented by some orthodox commentators and by some not so orthodox, 
that the prophecy of the advent of the Son of Man W2iS fulfilled by the fall 
of Jerusalem (with its attendant horrors of cannibalism and massacre) 
is so grotesque that to state it is to refute it. 



SACRED HISTORY I27 

at least their inventors cannot have supposed him to be God.^ 
The impression left by these early strata is of a human prophet, 
with human parents, brothers, and sisters, proclaiming that 
the kingdom of God is at hand and promising earthly rewards 
(houses, land, and human comradeship) to his followers.^ 
Since such stories were circulating round about a.d. 70, and 
since they point to a human and not improbable prophet, 
it is not irrational to conclude that such a prophet existed. 

It does not follow that everything that is set down in these 
early strata is true. Between the procuratorship of Pilate 
and the date when the material took shape a whole generation 
elapsed — ample time for a miraculous legend to grow up. 
Moreover, the possibihty cannot be excluded that in that 
legend we have a conglomerate of stories told at different 
times of different men — an Essene leader executed by Aris- 
tobulus before 63 B.C. ; a Nazarene crucified by Pilate nearly 
a century later; perhaps even Jesus ben-Hanan, a fanatic 
who for years before the fall of the city went about crying, 
" Woe, woe to Jerusalem ! " who persisted in spite of cruel 
beatings, and who was killed during the siege by a stone from 
a Roman catapult.^ He, however, made no Messianic claim. 
We are so accustomed to employing " Christ '' or " Messiah " 
as a proper name that we tend to forget that it was originally 
the generic term for an anointed king, and that there were 
during this period many claimants to that title, many of whom 
came to violent ends. The point is that, whatever the origin 
of these stories, they were told originally of a man or men, 
and not of a God. 

We have, then, in early Christian literature, putting aside 
secondary discrepancies, two primary and contradictory 
traditions — one (represented by the Pauline writings) of a 
saviour-god who is crucified by demons and who by rising 
from death confers eternal hfe on his worshippers; and one 

^ The stories of the temptation and the " cry of dereliction " are taught 
to us in childhood simultaneously with the dogma of the deity of Jesus. 
We give them verbal assent. But does anyone give more than verbal 
assent to the propositions that God incarnate was really tempted to sin, 
and really forsaken by — himself? 

2 Matt, xix, 29; Mark x, 29-30. ^ Joseiphus, Jewish War, VI, 5, 3. 



128 SACRED HISTORY 

(discernible in the Synoptic Gospels) of a human prophet put 
to death for preaching the kingdom of God on earth. The 
conflicting traditions persist throughout the early centuries. 
Because the fusion of opposites which we call *' orthodoxy " 
eventually won the day, we must not suppose that it was 
dominant from the first. In the Teaching of the Twelve 
Apostles, a manual of instruction compiled, it seems, in Syria 
about the end of the first or the beginning of the second cen- 
tury, we have an invaluable picture of a type of church as 
yet unaffected by Pauhne influences. The Teaching repro- 
duces part of the so-called Sermon on the Mount (but not 
from our existing Gospels) and gives the Lord's Prayer in 
the form we know. Otherwise it displays no knowledge of 
the New Testament. It prescribes a form of eucharist, but 
says nothing about the bread and wine representing in any 
way the body and blood of the Lord. Jesus is not God, but 
the " servant " of God. The organization of the Church is 
democratic and rather hke that of a modem trade union 
branch : it has its elected officials (" bishops " and " deacons ") 
and its visiting speakers (" apostles " and " prophets "). In 
deahng with these latter, the Teaching lays down rules de- 
signed to keep " Christ-mongers " at arm's length : for ex- 
ample, visitors are to be allowed subsistence, but are not to 
be paid in money. Evidently the churches, like other 
struggling organizations, suffered from men who tried to 
live on them. The Teaching ends by predicting a last and 
worst persecution, after which the Lord will come on the 
clouds of heaven and set up the kingdom of God. In the 
Shepherd of Hermas, a Christian allegory written at Rome 
about 140- J 50, we get a similar point of view. Jesus is a 
trusty servant of God in whom his Holy Spirit dwelt, and who 
for " labouring much and enduring many toils " and " walk- 
ing honourably in holiness and purity " is promoted to be 
the Son of God and deputed to reveal God's commandments 
to his fellow-servants.^ Justin, writing at Rome about the 
same time, though himself believing in the deity of Jesus, 
admits that there are Christians who consider him " a man 
and the son of men ; with whom I do not agree, nor could 
^ Hermas, Parable V. 



SACRED HISTORY I29 

I do so even if the greater number of my co-religionists were 
to say the same."^ Right on into the third and even the 
fourth century there were Christian teachers, especially in the 
East (Theodotus, Artemon, Paul of Samosata, Archelaus, 
Aphraates), who maintained that Jesus was a mere man, though 
supematurally favoured by God, and who claimed, moreover, 
that this had been the teaching of the first apostles and of the 
majority of Christians in the first two centuries. 

How came it that these two diametrically opposed views 
persisted side by side in the Christian churches until a formula 
of reconciliation was imposed by the Council of Nicaea? 
Neither can be explained by the other or reduced to the other. 
The deification of a man Jesus in such terms as are used in the 
Pauline Epistles, and the identification of a god Jesus with 
a Jew executed as a rebel by Pilate in the reign of Tiberius, 
are equally inexphcable except on one hypothesis. That is 
that Christianity had not one, but at least two and very 
probably more origins, and that by force of circumstances 
two or more initially independent movements fused into one. 

Let us try to reconstruct the story to the best of our ability. 
In the last century B.C. disillusionment with the Hasmonaean 
regime and fmal loss of independence led to revolutionary 
movements in Palestine which were in fact a revival of the 
prophetic movement of centuries before, and which found 
articulate expression in the Messianic hope. From time to 
time actual outbreaks occurred and were put down by the 
later Hasmonaeans, by the Herodian dynasty, and by Rome 
with ruthless ferocity. Thousands of rebels ended their 
lives on the cross. Still the movement continued. The 
theme of an executed Messiah triumphant over death already 
figured in revolutionary propaganda before the Christian 
era. This propaganda spread from Palestine to the diaspora 
in the Mediterranean cities, and by the first century of our 
era had provoked Rome to strong measures against Jews in 
Italy. The Jews whom Claudius expelled from Rome 
for making " disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus " ^ 
may not have been Christians in our sense of the word, but 
they were certainly Messianists — though whether the Messiah 

^ Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 48. ^ Suetonius, Claudius, XXV. 



130 SACRED HISTORY 

they followed had appeared elsewhere in the empire or there 
in their midst, in the Roman ghetto, is impossible to say on 
the meagre evidence of Suetonius.^ 

It was vital to well-to-do Jews and Jewish sympathizers 
in the diaspora to counter this popular Messianic propaganda 
and prevent the head-on colhsion with Rome which it 
threatened to bring about. But it could not be countered 
by mere negation. To be effective, counter-propaganda 
must be framed in terms which the masses could understand. 
This could be done by adopting the Messianist slogans and 
interpreting them in a mystical and therefore harmless sense. 
The kingdom of God? Yes, but a kingdom not of this 
world. To be inaugurated by the Messiah, the new Joshua, 
Christos lesous? Yes, but by no earthly warrior : by the Son 
of God, the conqueror of death and hell. Vengeance on the 
rich and great? No, salvation for all, Jew or Greek, bond or 
free, who believed and were united to the Son of God in 
baptism. 

That is the actual propaganda which from the first century 
of our era was carried on in the Mediterranean cities by a 
number of Greek-speaking Jews or half-Jews, of whom Paul 
and his associates are the best-known examples. " We were 
buried with him through baptism into death, that as Christ 
was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so 
we also might walk in newness of hfe."^ " We, who are 
many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of 
another." ^ To the slaves and freedmen who came to the 
synagogues of the diaspora looking for release from an evil 
society this sounded (and was meant to sound) like the preach- 
ing of a new mystery-cult. There is nothing here about the 
kingdom of God on earth or a Son of Man who will put 
down princes from their thrones and exalt them of low degree. 
The name " Christ" is indeed used; but the anointed king 
of popular apocalyptic has disappeared, and is replaced by 
the dying and risen saviour-god of an age-old myth. The 

^ Eisler's guess that this Messiah was Simon Magus, posing as Jesus 
risen from the dead, may be mentioned — as a guess. The Messiah Jesus and 
John the Baptist, p. 581. 

2 Rom. vi, 4. ^ Rom. xii, 5. 



SACRED HISTORY I3I 

substitution was facilitated by the fact that the Messiah had 
aheady in the last century B.C. begun to take on some of the 
attributes of a saviour-god. 

Travelling through the Mediterranean, Pauline propaganda 
before long encountered a movement of a very different 
kind and origin. Agitators from Palestine claimed that the 
Messiah had appeared there in the flesh — no theological 
creation like that of the Pauline missionaries, but an actual 
man, accredited by miracles of healing such as everyone 
expected a Messiah to perform. He had been chosen by 
God to set up his kingdom; and though the Romans had 
caught and crucified him, was it not written that the Messiah 
should suffer? He would soon return and gather his elect 
into a kingdom of peace and plenty on earth, in which all 
who dare risk a Roman cross and join him would share. 
Of some such nature was the propaganda of those Christians 
[Christiani on the analogy of Ccesariani — not worshippers of 
a gody but followers of a leader) who spread from Judaea to 
Rome and in 64 enabled Nero to fasten on them, with some 
plausibihty, the charge of firing the city. It was one and only 
one example of the Messianic ferment which led in 66-70 to 
the revolutionary war ending in the destruction of Jerusalem 
and its temple. 

After that catastrophe it became more than ever necessary 
for Pauline mystics to dissociate the Christ-cult from revo- 
lutionary Judaism and, so far as they could, to carry the 
diaspora with them. The angry clash between the two 
propagandas echoes and re-echoes in Pauline (or pseudo- 
Pauline) attacks on those who preach *' another Jesus, whom 
we did not preach," ^ and in counter-attacks on *' them 
which call themselves apostles and they are not." ^ For the 
purposes of their polemic the Pauline party took the inflam- 
matory hterature circulated by the Messianists about their 
crucified leader and (as the pagan critic Celsus was to point 
out) " revised it three or four times, nay, many times, and 
refashioned the story so as to provide themselves with rephes 
to objectors." ^ The process of revision is to be seen in the 
Synoptic Gospels, in which the original story of a human, 

^ 2 Cor. xi, 4. 2 Rev. ii, 2. ^ Origen, Against Celsus, II, 27. 



132 SACRED HISTORY 

but divinely endowed Jewish prophet has been progressively- 
worked over and made to conform to PauHne theology. 
In the Fourth Gospel the process is complete : Jesus is God 
from the beginning, and has only an outer show of manhood, 
such as an Egyptian might have attributed to Osiris or a 
Greek to Dionysus. 

Such literary devices, however, would have been fruitless 
but for the co-operation of hard economic facts. Messianic 
propaganda appealed mainly to the oppressed classes — 
slaves, freedmen, and the poor in general. Gnostic and 
Pauline propaganda, on the other hand, had its roots chiefly 
among the well-to-do — prosperous master-craftsmen like 
Paul himself, who takes credit (or is given credit by his im- 
personators) for not being " a burden on any man," ^ but, 
on the contrary, " ministering to them that were with him." ^ 
The Messianists, with their material appeal, had the makings 
of a mass movement, but little money. The Pauline mystics 
had money, but httle mass appeal. Nevertheless, money 
talks. By throwing their money into the scale, the Pauline 
party gradually got control of most of the Christian churches 
and drew the sting of the Messianic movement. The clergy, 
originally elected officials of the local church, gradually 
came to be regarded as irremovable and as holding their 
office from God. The accounts in the Acts and the Pauline 
Epistles of collections taken in Gentile churches for the " poor 
among the saints that are at Jerusalem " ^ may be partly his- 
torical. They undoubtedly suggest to realistic readers the 
process by which in the course of a century or so Paulinism 
with its mystical theology became orthodoxy, while first- 
century Messianism with its millennial dreams became an 
eccentricity and finally a heresy. Excommunication or ex- 
pulsion from the Church was not merely a spiritual, but a 
material weapon. It meant exclusion from the benefits 
disbursed by the Church, and particularly from the com- 
munal meal or agape, and was a powerful weapon by which 
the leadership could keep the rank and file in order. 

The same economic factor helps to solve another riddle. 
Many of us must have wondered why early Christianity in- 

^ 2 Cor. xi, 9. 2 ^<~f3 XX, 34. ^ Rom. xv, 26. 



SACRED HISTORY I33 

Spired such violent antipathy in educated Greeks and Romans 
— why Phny (after torturing two unfortunate female slaves) 
condemns it as an "absurd and extravagant superstition,"^ 
Tacitus as " deserving extreme and exemplary punishment,'* ^ 
Suetonius as " new and mischievous," ^ Marcus Aurehus as 
" mere obstinacy," ^ Celsus as a " secret conspiracy against 
the law " ^ — when almost all the Christian writings which 
have come down to us in the New Testament and the Fathers 
enjoin submission to the powers that be except in the one 
matter of idolatry. Surely idol-worship was not of vital 
moment to philosophers and men of culture ! Our uncritical 
ancestors were content to explain this antipathy by saying 
that pagans were wicked people who took a cruel pleasure in 
tormenting Christians. But Pliny, until he came across the 
Christians, was a kindly and refined gentleman. Tacitus was 
a passionate morahst, sensitive enough to suffering when the 
sufferers were of his own class. Marcus was a humanitarian 
Stoic, though his humanity may not have been noticeable 
in the amphitheatre at Lyons. Celsus was a highly intelligent, 
well-informed, and broad-minded philosopher. The para- 
dox disappears if we reflect that the early Christian literature 
we possess is, in the nature of the case, mainly the work of 
the better-off and better-educated Christians. We cannot be 
sure that Paul's exhortations to passive obedience or Justin's 
professions of loyalty represented the sentiments of the rank 
and file. In fact we can be pretty sure that they did not; 
for Paul (or whoever wrote in his name) would hardly have 
felt it necessary to threaten in such strong terms those who 
resisted the power of Rome unless resistance had been in 
the air. 

It is significant that the one contributor to the New 
Testament who writes not only colloquial, but ungrammatical 
Greek — the author of the Apocalypse — calls Rome a harlot 
drunk with blood and her empire a beast from the abyss, and 
threatens both with fire and brimstone, which, we suspect, 
he would not have minded administering personally. From 

^ Pliny, Letters, X, 97. ^ Tacitus, Annals, XV, 44. 

^ Suetonius, Nero, XVI. * Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, XI, 3. 

^ Origen, Against Celsus, I, i. 



134 SACRED HISTORY 

the Apocalypse we can learn more of the mind of the slaves 
and freedmen who composed the majority of the early Chris- 
tian community than from the more carefully edited Gospels 
and Epistles. Whatever apologists might say, behind the 
refusal of the rank-and-fde Christian to bum incense to the 
emperor's statue lay no mere monotheistic scruple, but a deep 
hatred of the "kingdom of the beast." Whatever Gnostics 
might say, the Christ whom the rank-and-file Christian 
died for rather than revile was no other-worldly mystery- 
god, but a crucified rebel, or perhaps a composite figure 
made up of many crucified rebels, whom he expected to 
come on the clouds of heaven to feed the birds of the air with 
the flesh of the kings of the earth and their armies. 

Thus, from a fusion between rich Gnostics and poor Mes- 
sianists, was born the Catholic Church. The dogma even- 
tually formulated of the union of perfect God and perfect 
man in one Christ reflects in terms of theology the union of 
the two movements in one Christian society. By the second 
half of the second century the fusion was as complete as it 
could ever hope to be. The Catholic Church, with her 
bishops by now well in control of their followers, sloughing 
off heresies to the right and left, dexterously appropriating 
the Jewish Bible, and appending to it her four Gospels and a 
canon (still somewhat in dispute) of apostolic literature,^ 
offered Christianity to the Roman Empire as a new opium 
for the people. 

^ The Muratori Canon at the end of the second century ignores the 
Epistle to the Hebrews, those of James and Peter, and 3 John. Even as 
late as Eusebius (early fourth century) some still rejected James, 2 Peter, 
2 and 3 Jolin, Jude, and Revelation. Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, III, 25. 



CHAPTER XI 

END OF A WORLD 

BY this time the Roman Empire was far on in decay. 
With the cessation o£ imperial expansion in the second 
century the supply of cheap slave labour dried up, and 
mass slavery became uneconomical. The exhausted soil was 
tilled more and more by serfs (coloni), who, in return for 
security on their smallholdings, paid the landowner in kind, 
in personal labour, or in both. Some of them were slaves 
manumitted on that condition, others free peasants reduced 
to it by distress. The owners in their turn were taxed more 
and more heavily to support the legions. These, as we have 
seen, were no longer Roman or even Italian, but raised from 
the provincial populations among whom they served, and 
more concerned to enrich themselves than to defend the 
empire as a whole. These provincial armies were becoming 
less and less reliable; for under Marcus Aurelius and his 
successors it became increasingly necessary to fill the gaps in 
their strength with Germans from over the frontier, who were 
settled on the land on condition of military service. The 
ancient world was beginning to dissolve into feudahsm.. 

In such a situation there could no longer be any objection 
to an Oriental rehgion as such. The Roman upper class, 
the traditional upholders of the State rehgion, were in the last 
stages of impotence and impoverishment. Even the Itahans 
were powerless under the mihtary heel. The legions were 
carrying Oriental cults, such as that of Mithra, into every 
comer of the empire. The only question about Christianity 
was whether it was treasonable or not. Were the loyal 
protestations of its apologists to be taken seriously, or had 
the empire still to fear a subversive Messianism? Severus, 
as we saw, prohibited both Jewish and Christian propaganda. 
But there was no universal or sustained persecution. The trend 

135 



136 END OF A WORLD 

of the time was towards toleration even of the queerest 
rehgions. In 211 Severus made way for his mad son Cara- 
calla; and in 218, after another scuffle among the legions, 
the Oriental troops showed their contempt for everything 
Roman by elevating to the empire the effeminate priest of a 
Syrian fertility-god, Elagabalus. By thus insulting the senate 
and people of the imperial city they unwittingly helped to 
pave the way for Christianity. Many must have felt that if 
Rome could stand Elagabalus she could stand anything. 

Alexander Severus (222-235), the young cousin and sup- 
planter of Elagabalus, was the first emperor to consider the 
official recognition of Christianity. He seems to have medi- 
tated something in the nature of a concurrent endowment of 
paganism, Judaism, and Christianity : at any rate, he is said 
to have had busts of Abraham, Orpheus, Apollonius of 
Tyana, and Christ in his private chapel and to have proposed 
to build a church at the public expense, but to have been 
dissuaded by the pagan priests. Whether the bishops would 
have accepted this compromise and whether they would have 
carried their followers with them, we shall never know; 
but as Eusebius tells us that Alexander's household was filled 
with " behevers," it is probable that he discussed the project 
with them. In any case he was not given a chance to try it. 
The defences of the empire were rocking under barbarian 
attacks. Persia, under her new and vigorous Sassanid 
monarchy, took the offensive in the east; and German tribes 
crossed the Rhine in the west. In 235 the western legions 
murdered the Syrian Alexander and proclaimed as emperor 
the Thracian Maximin, a rough peasant who had risen from 
the ranks to high command in the army. In the ensuing 
purge of Alexander's supporters a number of the clergy lost 
their lives; and Church historians accordingly reckon Maxi- 
min as a persecutor. But the executions were obviously 
political : on the showing even of Eusebius they were con- 
fined to " the leaders of the churches " and did not extend to 
the rank and file.-'- In the years of struggle which followed 

^ Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, VI, 28. By an inexplicable slip Gibbon 
ascribes to Maximin a " promiscuous massacre " of " a great number of 
Christians of every rank." Decline and Fall, XVI. 



END OF A WORLD 137 

between rival pretenders to the purple the lot of the Christians 
was no more miserable than that of other subjects of the 
empire. 

Power was again within the reach of the Church in 244, 
when Phihp the Arab incited the Oriental troops to murder 
the young emperor Gordian III and put him on the throne. 
Phihp, if we may credit Eusebius, was a Christian; but for 
inteUigible reasons the Church has never been anxious to 
claim him. In any case, he went down in 249 before the 
Illyrian Decius, who initiated the first systematic and general 
persecution which the Church had endured in its whole his- 
tory. It must be remembered that at this time the Roman 
world faced an appalling crisis. Armies kept together by 
no common loyalty, and maintained only by crushing taxa- 
tion, had to hold the frontiers against barbarians whose victory 
could hardly increase the misery to which the empire was 
abeady reduced by its defenders. Such an organization as 
the Church could fill one of two roles : it could be the rival 
or the ally of the hard-pressed imperial power. Decius saw 
in it a rival, and resolved to crush it. He was not given time 
to do so, for within two years he fell fighting the Goths in 
the marshes of the lower Danube. After that the Roman 
world relapsed into military anarchy, during which the Goths 
ravaged Asia Minor and the Balkans, the Franks swept through 
Gaul, and the emperor Valerian (who had resumed Decius' 
pohcy of persecution) fell alive into the hands of the Persians. 
The empire hterally went to pieces. Independent emperors 
were proclaimed in Gaul, Syria, Egypt, and the Danube 
provinces to defend countries which could no longer be de- 
fended from Rome. It looked as if the end had come. In 
that confusion no one any longer persecuted the Christians. 
To a competitor for empire they might be dangerous enemies 
or useful allies. In fact, during the weakness of the empire 
in the third century, Christianity emerged as a formidable 
mass movement, particularly in the eastern provinces. The 
conversion of Armenia, a small but important buffer-State 
between Rome and Persia, belongs to this time and was a 
notable step forward. 

For the story of the fmal victory of the Church we are 



138 END OF A WORLD 

almost entirely dependent on Christian sources. Extant 
pagan writers of the time, such as the compilers of the Augustan 
History, say next to nothing about Christianity. The last 
pagan historian of any merit, Ammianus Marcellinus, wrote 
after its triumph. It is remarkable, to say the least, that the 
whole of his work down to and including the reign of Con- 
stantine is lost. It looks as if pagan histories of the period 
had been weeded out on the principle of the survival of the 
least fit, and as if Christian censors had taken care to transmit 
to us only the more puerile, the more meagre, and the more 
innocuous of their opponents. We are left with the Eccle- 
siastical History of Eusebius as our chief contemporary authority 
on the momentous revolution which ends the history of the 
ancient world. 

Eusebius was bom somewhere in the eastern provinces, 
probably of Christian parents, about 260. In his youth he 
witnessed the restoration of imperial unity by Aurelian and 
the reorganization of the empire under Diocletian. In his 
middle years he came unscathed (physically, if not spiritually) 
through the last and worst persecution of Christianity. Later 
he became bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, a courtier and 
panegyrist of the emperor Constantine, and the father of 
Church history. In dealing with the earher history of Chris- 
tianity, Eusebius is the prisoner of his own orthodoxy and 
valuable chiefly for his quotations from older authors now 
lost. But on his own times he is an important authority, 
though naturally partial and not always scrupulous; and his 
evidence, when not self-contradictory or refuted by other 
sources, deserves due attention. In addition to Eusebius, we 
have a contemporary tract On the Deaths of Persecutors, doubt- 
fully ascribed to Lactantius— a violent party pamphlet on the 
unsupported authority of which it would be rash to accept 
any statement whatever. 

The restoration of the empire after its disruption in the 
third century was the work of Illyrian emperors, mostly of 
obscure origin, who had risen from the ranks in hard fighting 
and owed their elevation to the acclamation of frontier 
armies. They were men without roots in Rome or the Roman 
past. Such was Claudius II (268-270), who drove the Goths 



END OF A WORLD 139 

back over the Danube and earned the title " Gothicus." Such 
was AureUan (270-275), who reconquered Egypt, Syria, and 
Gaul, and assumed the proud title of" restorer of the world." 
Such was Probus (276-282), who had uphill work to secure 
the gains of Aurehan and was murdered by his own soldiers 
for his pains.^ Such, finally, was Diocletian, who in 284, 
when rival armies were again about to rend the empire in 
pieces, made himself master of the Roman world and prepared 
the way for Constantine. 

The empire restored by Aurelian and Diocletian was very 
different from that of Augustus or Trajan, or even from the 
moribund fabric which had gone to pieces a generation before. 
Only by straining language could it now be called Roman. 
Its rulers were not Roman; its armies were not Roman; 
and under Diocletian Rome ceased even to be the capital 
city. All that remained was a ramshackle and cosmopoHtan 
collection of provinces, armies, and populations precariously 
riveted together by military force and by a simulated loyalty 
to a dead past. The shaky foundations of his work were 
evident to Aurehan himself. He, first of all the emperors, 
found it necessary to fortify Rome itself against barbarian 
attack. Italy was no longer secure : the pax Romana was a 
thing of the past. Dacia was abandoned to the Goths. And 
infiltrating into provinces, armies, and populations was a rival 
power, also not Roman, also cosmopolitan, openly spurning 
the past, proclaiming a new loyalty, and with its face to the 
future. Those two powers had now to come to terms or fight 
a duel to the death. 

The nature of the issue was illustrated by a significant 
incident in the reign of Aurelian. During the years of dis- 
ruption the Arab chief of Palmyra, Odainath or Odaenathus, 
had made himself master of the eastern provinces and waged 
war on Persia, ostensibly in the Roman interest, but really as 
an independent ruler. After his death his widow, Bath- 
Zabbai or (in Greek) Zenobia, dropped all pretence of alle- 
giance to Rome and openly set up an Arab empire of the 

^ Gibbon's vigorous style betrays him into a much quoted exaggeration. 
" A thousand swords were plunged at once into the bosom of the unfortunate 
Probus." Decline and Fall XII. 



140 END OF A WORLD 

east. The Semitic empire was to have a Semitic reUgion. 
To this end Zenobia showed favour to Jewish rabbis in her 
dominions and took into her counsels the bishop of Antioch, 
Paul of Samosata. This was not as inconsistent as it might 
seem ; for Paul was a Christian with a difference. Contrary 
to the now preponderant opinion in the Church, but agree- 
ably to that of more eastern Christians than is usually ad- 
mitted, he denied the divinity of Christ and (if we may believe 
his enemies) tried to stop the singing of hymns " to Christ 
as to a god " which had been in use in the Greek churches 
from the time of Pliny. Did Zenobia — a woman of unusual 
parts — hope to bring about with his help a concordat between 
the Jews and the Oriental Christians, and to sweep the East 
with a simplified monotheism which would have forestalled 
the achievement of Islam nearly four centuries later? It is 
an interesting speculation. Whatever her plans were, she 
reckoned without Aurelian. In 272 he marched east, de- 
stroyed her army, and took her prisoner, and in 273 sacked 
Palmyra. The orthodox bishops seized the occasion to 
invoke the secular arm against Paul. Aurelian ruled that 
the property of the church of Antioch should be transferred 
to a candidate recognized by the bishops of Rome and Italy. 
Thus did pagan power-politics sow the seed of papal pre- 
tensions to be ! 

The incident suggests that Aurelian was at least considering 
the use of the Church as an instrument of government. If 
so, he quickly abandoned the idea. He found a more im- 
mediately handy instrument in the cult of Mithra, the old 
Iranian sun-god, which under the Roman Empire had been 
carried by traders and legionaries to the limits of the West. 
In its passage from its native Persia, Mithraism had picked up 
from Babylonian and other sources a wealth of ritual and 
myth which had many points of contact with Christianity : 
Mithra was the mediator between God and man, communi- 
cating his grace through sacraments which ensured everlasting 
life. The cult was especially strong in the military stations 
along the Rhine and Danube; and Aurelian, himself a soldier 
from the Danube, decided to make the " unconquered sun " 
the patron deity of the empire. From an imperial point of 



END OF A WORLD I4I 

view Mithraism had the advantage over Christianity that sun- 
worship was akeady a long-estabUshed cult, and that no one 
could say that Mithra had been crucified as a rebel against 
Rome. It had the disadvantage of being an exclusively mas- 
culine religion ; for no women were admitted to its mysteries. 
The temple of the " unconquered sun " was dedicated at 
Rome in 274 on December 25, the birthday of the god. No 
one as yet associated the date with any rival deity. 

According to Eusebius, Aurehan was about to follow up 
his estabhshment of Mithraism with an edict against Chris- 
tianity when he was assassinated. His immediate successors 
were too busy defending the frontiers to pursue the matter; 
and the final combat was deferred until the last years of Dio- 
cletian. 

Diocletian, like Aurelian, was an Illyrian soldier of humble 
origin who had fought his way up from the ranks. His first 
act was to accept the fact, hammered home by a generation of 
anarchy, that the empire could no longer be defended or ruled 
from a single centre. Disruption was once more on the 
march. In Gaul the peasants, driven to desperation by their 
economic burdens, had risen in one of those outbreaks which 
were to recur through the Middle Ages and right on until 
1789. Instead of waiting for independent emperors to be 
proclaimed in his despite, Diocletian took the initiative by 
handing over the West to his countryman and comrade 
Maximian, reserving the East for himself. The eastern capital 
was Nicomedia (Ismid) in Asia Minor. The western was no 
longer Rome, but Milan. Maximian had hardly put down 
the revolutionary peasants {Bagaudce) in Gaul when he was 
faced with revolt in Britain, where a Gallic officer named 
Carausius proclaimed himself emperor of the island. From 
286 to 293 Diocletian and Maximian accepted the accomplished 
fact. Then they decided to meet the challenge by a new 
subdivision of the empire. Diocletian's son-in-law, the 
Thracian Galerius, was given the Danube provinces, while 
another Illyrian, Constantius, was given Gaul and Spain and 
entrusted with the recovery of Britain. This reconquest was 
effected in 296. For the next few years the four emperors 
co-operated amicably and defended the various frontiers with 



142 END OF A WORLD 

success. But the price paid was a multiplication of the cost 
of administration, and a grim economic crisis which in 301 
Diocletian tried to meet by fixing (for the first time in the 
history of the empire) a maximum price for commodities and 
a maximum rate for wages and salaries. Inscribed fragments 
of this edict have been found at various places in Asia Minor, 
Egypt, and Greece. It seems to have operated only in 
Diocletian's part of the empire. 

Not till 303 did Diocletian turn his attention to the religious 
question. We must remember what the situation was. 
Only by desperate measures could the empire now be held 
together. Compulsion was the order of the day. In a 
society without any common interest men had to be compelled 
to co-operate, compelled to carry on the necessary work of 
the world, and compelled to serve a government not notice- 
ably worth serving for its own sake. Compulsion in the 
matter of religious observance naturally followed. The men 
who had to cope with the situation were not philosophic 
Greeks or Romans. We are no longer dealing with Julius 
Caesar or even with Marcus Aurelius, but with self-educated 
or uneducated Balkan peasant-soldiers who understand the 
strong arm and nothing else; who look to the "immortal 
gods " for the peace and prosperity which they themselves 
have failed to achieve; and who call on their subjects, under 
pains and penalties, to co-operate in the ritual by which the 
gods are swayed. A further factor which may have hardened 
the rulers of the empire against Christianity was the recent 
conversion of the people and royal house of Armenia. Till 
then the Christians had been merely an objectionable sect 
within the empire : now they were a " fifth column " con- 
nected with a foreign State. 

If we may believe Christian writers (the only ancient 
authorities we have), the prime mover in the persecution was 
Galerius. He took the initiative by cashiering Christians in 
his army, and then persuaded Diocletian to issue an edict 
ordering the demolition of churches, the burning of copies 
of the scriptures, and the exclusion of Christians from pubhc 
office and of Christian slaves from any hope of freedom. 
Reading between the lines of Eusebius, we can see that the 



END OF A WORLD 143 

Christians were by no means as passive under persecution as 
is usually supposed. The edict, as soon as it was posted at 
Nicomedia, was torn down by a Christian, who was instantly 
seized and put to death.^ Soon afterwards the palace of 
Diocletian was fired. Eusebius repudiates the suspicion of 
Christian comphcity ; but his repudiation will convince only 
those who assume without proof the pacifism of all early 
Christians. The immediate result was a reign of terror in 
Nicomedia. Eusebius mentions, without giving details, 
armed revolts in Melitene on the upper Euphrates and in 
Syria. Nothing further is known of these risings ; but the 
places were close to the Armenian frontier. We cannot 
exclude the possibihty that Christians, supported from Ar- 
menia, were involved. Diocletian at any rate took it for 
granted, and immediately followed up his first edict with 
others ordering the arrest of all clergy and compelling them, 
on pain of torture and death, to sacrifice to the gods. Against 
the general body of Christians the dormant laws of the empire 
were revived and enforced. There can be no doubt about 
the savagery of this persecution. Even if we ignore the 
cruelties which Eusebius reports at second hand, we cannot 
reject those which he relates as an eyewitoess. He himself 
in Palestine, Phoenicia, and Egypt saw Christians flogged, 
thrown to the beasts, beheaded, burnt alive, until " the execu- 
tioners themselves grew utterly weary and took it in turns to 
succeed one another." ^ Diocletian was not a monster, nor 
even Galerius. They were able and hard-working soldiers 
defending an all but indefensible empire in time of crisis, and 
they believed themselves to be fighting a dangerous and 
treacherous fifth column. We, who have seen civihzed and 
conscientious statesmen order the obliteration of cities and 
the massacre of men, women, and children by high explosives 

^ Tliis martyr has without a particle of evidence been identified with 
George, the patron saint of England. Eusebius does not give any name. 

2 Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, VIII, 9. Eusebius (VIII, 7) relates that 
at Tyre, when he was present, the beasts miraculously refused to attack 
the martyrs, who had consequently to be beheaded. The story, though 
" written up," may be in substance true. Crypto-Christians in the 
menagerie department doubdess fed the animals on the sly. 



144 END OF A WORLD 

and atomic bombs, are in a better position than our Victorian 
fathers to understand Diocletian. One of the lessons learnt 
from history is that, as Hegel says, tragedy is not the conflict 
between right and wrong, but the conflict between right and 
right. 

Eusebius, though not the most candid of historians, is honest 
enough to admit that " countless " clergy, not being of the 
stufl" of which martyrs were made, " proved weak at the first 
assault " and recanted.^ This natural weakness only sets off 
the heroism of others. Incidentally, Eusebius mentions 
without any censure Christians of Antioch who threw them- 
selves from house-tops to avoid arrest, and a lady of that city 
who drowned herself and her two daughters to escape outrage 
by soldiers. Evidently Eusebius and other Christians of that 
day held more rational views about suicide than their medieval 
and modem successors. Too many of us were brought up 
to regard the early Christians as people of legendary and in- 
human virtue who spent their lives in turning the other cheek 
to the smiter and ended as passive victims in the arena. Those 
thousands of recanting clergy, that fire in the emperor's 
palace, those obscure revolts on the Armenian frontier, and 
those suicides at Antioch remind us that they were, after all, 
people not unlike ourselves; and who is not grateful for the 
reminder ? 

One flaw in the policy of persecution was obvious from the 
first. It could succeed only if all four emperors kept step. 
Now Constantius, who governed Gaul, Spain, and Britain, 
was not in agreement with his colleagues and refused to exe- 
cute their edicts. Consequently any Christian who could 
afford the journey had only to escape to the western provinces 
to be perfectly safe. That was enough to doom the whole 
policy to futility from the start. 

In 305 Diocletian abdicated at Nicomedia. He was fifty-nine, 
ill and worn out ; perhaps also he felt himself a beaten man. 
Eusebius says that his intellect was deranged. This is untrue 
and unfair ; but a historian who had seen what Eusebius had 
seen in Palestine and Egypt could hardly be expected to be 

^ Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, VIII, 3 . Eusebius was accused later in 
life of having purchased his own freedom B^ apostasy. 



END OF A WORLD 145 

fair to Diocletian. Simultaneously, by prearrangement, 
Maximian abdicated at Milan. Constantius succeeded him 
in the West; and Galerius stepped into the shoes of his 
father-in-law in the East. Next year Constantius died at 
York. At once it became apparent how precarious had been 
the respite from anarchy. The British legions immediately 
acclaimed as emperor Constantine, the young son of Con- 
stantius; the praetorian guard at Rome, not to be outdone, 
put up Maxentius, the son of Maximian; Maximian him- 
self re-emerged to take a hand in the game; and the 
empire was soon torn between no fewer than six rival 
dynasts, none of whom trusted the others and any of 
whom (unless too deeply compromised as a persecutor) 
might at any moment steal a march on the rest by a 
deal with the Church. Meanwhile the war preparations of 
the rival emperors exhausted the provinces and brought 
trade to a standstill. 

Constantine had the advantage of a clean sheet in the matter 
of persecution. For six years he exercised his troops on the 
Rhine and played off his competitors one against another, 
knowing that he had a ready-made fifth column in their rears 
if he chose to mobihze it. At first he allied himself with 
old Maximian, and became his son-in-law. But in 310 
they fell out, and Maximian was handed over by his 
own men to Constantine and either executed or made to 
commit suicide. In 311 Galerius, seeing himself beaten, 
called off the persecution, and soon afterwards died. We 
need not believe Eusebius' story of his death-bed repentance. 
The old soldier never became a Christian. His edict of tolera- 
tion expresses neither remorse nor regret; it merely recog- 
nizes that the force against him is stronger than he had 
supposed. He , had hoped that the Christians would 
abandon their folly and return to the ireUgion of their 
ancestors; but as, in spite of his measures, they will not, 
and any rehgion is better than none, they may please 
themselves, always provided that there is no sedition, and 
that as good subjects they remember the emperor in their 
prayers. Better have such obstinate fellows with you than 
against you ! 



146 END OF A WORLD 

The competitors for empire were now reduced to four: 
Constantine in the western provinces ; Maxentius in Italy and 
Africa ; Licinius, an old officer of Galerius, in the Danubian 
and Balkan provinces; and Maximinus Daia, a nephew of 
Galerius, in the East. In 312 Constantine with an army of 
Gauls and Germans invaded Italy. Maxentius was odious to 
both pagans and Christians owing to his incapacity and mis- 
government, and therefore easy game. Constantine fell on 
him outside the gates of Rome, drove him into the Tiber, 
and drowned him. The famous story of Constantine's 
conversion to Christianity on the eve of the battle by a 
miraculous vision of the cross in the noonday sky does not 
occur in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, but in his Life of 
Constantine, published after the emperor's death. It can be 
dismissed as a pious fiction. Constantine was a complete 
opportunist. After his victory he met Licinius at Milan and 
with him issued an edict of toleration, but did not break with 
the old religion. He still recognized the pagan priesthoods ; 
as pontifex maximus he was their supreme head; and pagan 
symbols still appeared on his coins. 

The next rival to be destroyed was Maximin in the East. 
WithLicinius and Constantine allied against him, his dominions 
more Christianized than any other part of the empire, and 
Armenia in his rear, he was a lost man. Striking wildly at his 
enemies without and within, he renewed the persecution of 
the Christians, and in 313 threw himself at Licinius, only to 
meet with crushing defeat and to die, possibly by poison, a 
few months later. There was only Licinius left to dispute the 
empire with Constantine. He was old and altogether unequal 
to the situation ; in fact, he must have been an exceptionally 
stupid man not to have seen through the designs of Con- 
stantine from the first. In 321, after a few years of open war 
or uneasy peace, this last of the pagan peasant-emperors set 
about purging his court and his army of Christians, demoHsh- 
ing churches, and arresting bishops. In 324 Constantine 
made war on him, defeated him, made him prisoner, and put 
him to death. The last book of Eusebius' history is a pro- 
longed war-whoop over the victory of his master and patron, 
won, he assures us, by the special grace of the Lord of Hosts, 



END OF A WORLD 147 

" who smote great kings, and slew nxighty kings ; for his 
mercy endureth for ever." ^ 

Meanwhile Constantine had begun to find that the estab- 
Ushment of Christianity was not so simple as it looked. The 
opportunism (to put it mildly) of many bishops and clergy 
during the years of persecution had earned them the contempt 
of the more fanatical rank and file. Especially was this so in 
the African provinces, where acute social misery, due to the 
concentration of land in the hands of a few great owners, 
tended to accentuate the subversive and revolutionary side of 
the new religion. The rift came in 311 over the election of 
a new bishop of Carthage. The successful candidate, Caecil- 
irxay was denounced by his opponents as having handed over 
copies of the scriptures to be burnt during the persecution. 
In 312 he appealed to Constantine, the new master of the 
West, who, after convening a council of western bishops, 
gave in 316 a final ruling in his favour. Constantine was 
prepared to establish and endow Christianity : he was not 
prepared to disqualify men from office in the Church for 
compHance with the persecuting edicts of his predecessors. 
The defeated party were treated as rebels and deprived of the 
benefits of toleration which Constantine extended to their 
opponents. So began a struggle between those Christians 
who accepted establishment on Constantine's terms and those 
— ^known as Donatists, from Donatus the rival bishop of 
Carthage — who did not. The bitter and protracted nature 
of the schism shows that far more was at issue than a disputed 
election. The Donatists, spiritual heirs of the fierce TertuUian, 
met force with force, ralhed to their side fugitive slaves, dis- 
tressed peasants, and other revolutionary elements, and con- 
tributed materially to the fmal downfall of the Roman 
Empire in Africa. 

The Donatist schism turned on matters of discipline and on 
the relations of Church and State. A more complex problem 
awaited Constantine when in 324 he became master of the 
East. As we have seen, the early Christians were never 
unanimous as to the nature of the Christ from whom they 
took their name. To many he was a man chosen by God, 
^ Ps. cxxxvi, 17-18 ; cited in Ecclesiastical History , X, 4. 



148 END OF A WORLD 

raised from the dead, and destined to reign on earth in the 
Messianic kingdom, but nevertheless a man and not God. 
This was the prevalent opinion in those eastern churches 
v^hich might be expected to preserve v^ith most fidelity the 
traditions of primitive Christianity — those of Palestine, Syria, 
Commagene, and Armenia. To others, whose faith owed 
more to Greek philosophy and Gnostic speculation than to 
historical tradition, Jesus Christ was the Creator of heaven and 
earth, who for us men and for our salvation became incarn- 
ate, suffered, and rose again, but had never for a moment 
been other than the eternal God. This was the prevalent 
opinion in the Greek and Latin churches. No sooner had 
the victory of Constantine given Christianity peace from 
persecution than the doctrinal rift threatened to shiver it 
to pieces. 

Arius, the Alexandrian presbyter whose preaching brought 
the trouble to a head, was by no means an extremist. He 
tried to mediate between the low views of Christ's divinity 
prevalent in the Syrian churches and the high views held at 
Alexandria. He admitted that Christ was divine, and even 
that he was the only-begotten Son of God, but not that he 
was eternal. A Son, if words have any meaning, cannot be 
one with his Father. Sonship implies origin in time and 
subordination in dignity. Many passages in the New Testa- 
ment could be quoted in support of Arius : after all, the New 
Testament is a conglomerate of incompatibles. To converts 
fresh from paganism, and therefore familiar with the idea of 
superior and inferior deities, Arius would seem to be talking 
plain common sense. But he raised a hornets' nest at 
Alexandria, where to the rank and file of Christians he 
seemed to be preaching two gods and selling the pass to 
the pagans with whom they had only recently been at 
death-grips. 

To Constantine the point at issue was not important, or 
even intelligible, but it was vital that his new instrument of 
government, the Church, should not be rent in pieces over 
such questions as this. In 325, therefore, he convened a 
general council of bishops at Nicaea and commissioned them 
to hammer out an orthodox formula. As the council was 



END OF A WORLD 149 

held in the heart of the Greek world, the majority of the 
bishops present were Greeks. It is noteworthy that the 
bishop of Rome was represented only by two presbyters. 
By an overwhelming majority, but probably more for the 
sake of peace than from reasoned conviction, the bishops 
voted that the Son of God was one in essence with his Father, 
and anathematized any who said that there had been a time 
when he had not existed. Constantine ratified the decision, 
banished Arius and the recalcitrant bishops, and ordered the 
works of the heretic to be surrendered and burnt on pain of 
death. 

Thus within a few years of the edict of Milan the policy of 
toleration lay in ruins. The chief significance of the Council 
of Nicaea lies in the admission by the Church, for the first 
time in its history, of the right of the State to enforce dogma 
by persecution. The particular dogmas enforced might 
vary. Within a few years Constantine had changed his mind, 
recalled Arius and the banished bishops, and sent the fiery 
Athanasius into exile in their place. But whatever dogmatic 
form it might assume, Christianity had become an instrument 
of government, and under Christian emperors dissenters from 
orthodoxy, whatever orthodoxy for the moment might be, 
could expect no more consideration than Christians had had 
from pagans in the past. Indeed, heretics were soon to find 
that it was better to be tried by a pagan governor than by an 
orthodox Christian. 

Hardly less significant is the concentration of episcopal 
attention on the interpretation of Pauline or Johannine 
theology to the exclusion of the social application of Gospel 
teaching. The bishops put millennial dreams into cold 
storage and sold their flocks for pelf and place. The plunder 
of the civil population to pamper the army, which had been 
systematically practised by the later pagan emperors, con- 
tinued unabated under their Christian successors. To stop 
the wretched peasantry from running away from their hold- 
ings and leaving the land waste, Constantine in 332 bound 
them and their posterity to the soil under penalties, thus 
making them serfs in law, as they had long been in fact. A 
population so downtrodden had nothing to lose by barbarian 



150 END OF A WORLD 

conquest; and since the imperial armies were increasingly- 
manned and even commanded by Germans, the end could not 
long be delayed. 

The reign of Constantine, in fact, marks more definitely 
than any other era the end of the ancient world. The transfer 
of the seat of empire to Constantinople in 330 was symbolic 
in more senses than one. It was an outward and visible 
repudiation of that Roman past which for more than a century 
had been less and less regarded by the military adventurers 
who held sway. With the economic ruin of Italy and the 
transfer of power to the provincial armies, Rome had long 
ceased to be the real mistress of the world. The history of 
the third century had shown that the strategic centre of the 
empire was in the Balkans. If government from a single 
centre was still possible at all, that centre could not be Rome, 
but had to be some city in the Balkan area. Of all those so 
situated none was so well placed for defence as the city on the 
Bosphorus. Further, experience had shown that government 
could not be carried on without the goodwill of the Church. 
It was better therefore that the city selected should be unen- 
cumbered by pagan cults and priesthoods. The fact that 
Byzantium was a strategic prize had exposed it to repeated 
sieges and captures during the time of imperial disintegration. 
By the time Constantine took it over, the old city was well- 
nigh a ruin, and he could do what he liked with the site. In 
so far as it is possible to associate so great a revolution with a 
date, we may say that by rebuilding Byzantium as Constan- 
tinople and excluding from it all worship but that of orthodox 
Christianity, he wrote finis to classical antiquity and inaugur- 
ated the Middle Ages. 

Constantine failed to reunite the empire for more than a 
few years. That was now past anyone's power. On his 
death in 337 his sons divided their inheritance with the sword. 
Ammianus Marcellinus, the last pagan historian of importance, 
in the extant part of his work tells the sorry story of the 
ensuing generation : the Roman world as misgoverned by 
Christian rulers as it had ever been by pagans — the prey of 
ruffianly emperors, rapacious officials, and hardly more 
rapacious barbarians; Christians persecuting Christians more 



END OF A WORLD I5I 

savagely than any wild beasts; Julian's idealistic, but forlorn 
attempt to galvanize a dead paganism into life; Franks, 
Goths, and other Germans taking service with the emperors 
and fmally pouring in en masse to complete the dismember- 
ment of an already stinking corpse. 

Swinburne in one of his best-known poems has pictured 
the feelings of a pagan after the victory of Christianity at 
Rome : 

O lips that the live blood faints in, the leavings of racks and rods ! 

ghastly glories of saints, dead limbs of gibbeted Gods ! 
Though all men abase them before you in spirit, and all knees bend, 

1 kneel not neither adore you, but standing, look to the end . . . 
Though the feet of thine high priests tread where thy lords and our fore- 
fathers trod, 

Though these that vv^ere Gods are dead, and thou being dead art a God, 
Though before thee the throned Cytherean be fallen, and hidden her head, 
Yet thy kingdom shall pass, Galilean, thy dead shall go down to thee 
dead.^ 

To which the short and simple answer is that, if you build 
your domination on racks and rods, their leavings will take 
revenge on you. That is what Rome had done. For cen- 
turies her legions had swept the Mediterranean world for 
slaves to minister to her wants ; for centuries she had kept her 
slaves down by fear of the scourge and the cross ; and now 
she was forced to bend the knee to a scourged and crucified 
God. There is no need to judge Rome by her worst sons. 
It is enough to judge her by her best. It is the cultured Pliny 
who returns thanks to Trajan for his lavish gladiatorial shows 
— " no nerveless and relaxing spectacle, nor one to soften and 
break men's spirits, but an incentive to face honourable 
wounds and to think lightly of death." ^ It is the eloquent 
Symmachus, the diehard defender of paganism in the last 
years of the fourth century, who regrets that a band of Saxon 
gladiators whom he purchased for the arena should have 
strangled one another rather than be butchered to make a 
Roman holiday. It is a little too much to ask us to regret 
the downfall of such a civilization as that. The case against 
the Christian Church is not that it destroyed pagan civili- 

^ Swinburne, Hymn to Proserpine. ^ Pliny, Panegyric, 33. 



152 END OF A WORLD 

zation, but that it perpetuated so many of its worst features. 
And when the end forecast by Swinburne comes and the 
kingdom of the Gahlean passes, it will not be by a revival of 
dead paganism, but by the agency of an atheistic humanism 
as hostile to the estabhshed and endowed churches of today as 
was Christianity, in its vigorous youth, to the cults of the 
ancient world and o£ divus Ccesar. 



CHAPTER XII 

MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

THE term " Middle Ages " was coined by writers of 
the Renaissance to denote the period of approximately 
a thousand years between the decline of ancient civili- 
zation and the revival of learning in their own day. This 
use of the term has been much criticized by modern historians. 
It has been pointed out that the thousand years in question 
were by no means a blank in human achievement; that if 
the first half of the period was truly a Dark Age, an age of 
civic decay and rustic stagnation, of political dismemberment 
and brutal anarchy, nevertheless in the second half trade 
revived, a robust city life took shape, the nations of modem 
Europe were bom, the critical spirit was alive, and the artistic 
and literary expansion, for which the Renaissance wrongly 
claimed the whole credit, was visibly in preparation. All 
this is true, yet the term " Middle Ages " is not inapt. The 
end of the Graeco-Roman world marks an epoch. The 
ancient social organization based on the city-state had broken 
down. There was a general loss of nerve. Men felt the 
world to be evil, and sought compensation in the myth of 
another world which, they believed, would soon supersede 
it in a miraculous catastrophe. And though the catastrophe 
never arrived, and in default of it men and women went on 
living and made do with the imperfect world about them, 
and in due course evolved a new civilization and braced 
themselves to make it worth while, yet it was a full thousand 
years before the new civilization became strong enough and 
self-conscious enough to revolt decisively against the vested 
interests which had fed and grown fat on the poverty, inse- 
curity, and illiteracy of the centuries between. 

Turning from an ancient historian to a medieval chronicler 
is like turning from a man with some stake in the world 

153 



154 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

and some pride in his heritage (even if the stake is selfish and 
the pride narrow) to a child who knows nothing except what 
pleases him, what hurts him, what frightens him, and what 
his elders tell him. Such writers as Bede in the earlier Middle 
Ages, or Malmesbury, Paris, and their compeers in the later, 
give us graphic descriptions of the violence of their times 
and (monks though they are) caustic exposures of the cor- 
ruption of the Church to which they belong. They are to 
that extent invaluable. But of critical history none of them 
has a glimmering conception. None attains even to the 
hesitant scepticism of a Herodotus, far less to the scientific 
precision of a Thucydides. None has the least idea of what 
is really happening to the world beneath the showy melo- 
drama of battle, murder, and sudden death. To all alike 
what really matters is the prosperity of the Church, and in 
particular of the monastic foundation to which the writer 
belongs. 

Hence medieval chronicles, though indispensable to the 
student, do not carry him far unless supplemented by sources 
which go a little deeper into the economic, social, and political 
history of the period. Of these there is a veritable wealth. 
So far as England alone is concerned, the reader who finds 
life too short for first-hand research among pipe rolls, charters, 
statutes, and other national and local records will find a mine 
of information in such works as Vinogradoff's Growth of the 
Manor, Chadwick's Origin of the English Nation, Seebohm's 
Tribal Custom in Anglo-Saxon Law, Stubbs' Select Charters and 
Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History, Maitland's 
Domesday Book and Beyond, Cunningham's Growth of English 
Industry and Commerce, Ashley's Introduction to English Economic 
History and Theory, J. R. Green's Short History of the English 
People, and Alice Stopford Green's Town Life in the Fifteenth 
Century. By the time he has absorbed this amount he will 
probably conclude that one country's history is as much as 
he can tackle and, for the general medieval background, will 
be content to rely on books of reference. For this reason we 
shall be concerned mainly with English history. But it will 
be a pity if, having begun Gibbon, the student does not con- 
tinue him to the finish and follow him up with some such 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 155 

work as Lecky's History of European Morals from Augustus to 
Charlemagne or Coulton's Five Centuries of Religion before 
returning to our island. 

From the works named we get the general impression of a 
smashed civiUzation in which the majority are of necessity 
serfs to the strong arm. The Church has entered into partner- 
ship with the feudal lords as joint exploiter of the tillers of 
the soil. For five or six centuries after the fall of Rome — 
that is, until the migrations are over and the last Vikings have 
carved out their duchies or their kingdoms and settled down 
— there is no real recovery. What keeps life going is the 
village economy — the peasants with their waste land common 
and undivided, and their arable land allotted by customary 
rules of turn and turn about under the open-field system. 
Slavery still existed; but gang-slavery had disappeared with 
the decline of the Roman Empire. The northern con- 
querors never practised it : even in the time of Tacitus the 
slave in Germany " has control of his own house and home. 
The master imposes a fixed charge of grain, cattle, or clothing, 
as he would on a tenant." ^ Such slavery was to all intents 
and purposes the same as serfdom, and no worse than the 
condition to which formerly free peasants were everywhere 
gradually reduced in the unsettled times of the later Roman 
Empire. This accounts for the fact that the Latin word for 
slave, servus, gave rise to the French and English serf while a 
new word, slave, had to be coined when in the eighth century- 
numbers of Slav captives were sold to German feudal lords 
and reduced to a more rigorous bondage than that suffered 
by native peasants. The Latin word villa, meaning a country 
house or seat, came to denote a feudal lord's establishment of 
more or less servile tenantry, and villanus, '* villein," the indi- 
vidual villager. The distinction between villein and serf 
was theoretical rather than practical. Domesday Book still 
tries to draw it ; but by the thirteenth century it is forgotten. 
In the course of time, with the revival of trade and urban Hfe, 
from the downtrodden villa emerged the thriving ville — the 
chartered town or city of the later Middle Ages. But the 
chartered town was an anomaly in medieval life, an exception 
^ Tacitus, Germania, 25. 



156 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

to the rule, though an exception which was to grow until it 
broke up the system. 

The mark of the later Middle Ages is the ever-increasing 
importance of this new class, the burghers or bourgeoisie. 
They are originally people of the burgh or stronghold — traders 
who gather in a place fortified by a king or lord, and therefore 
safe, to exchange their wares, because they would be robbed 
anywhere else. Then, as the tastes of the upper class grow 
more expensive, a whole community of traders and artisans 
springs up round a castle or abbey to supply those tastes. 
Then these communities by cash payments to the lord or the 
king win freedom from feudal control and become communes 
or corporate towns, each with its self-governing merchant 
guild and guildhall. Corporate towns admit runaway villeins 
from the surrounding countryside, beard abbots and bishops 
to their faces, and finally so grow in size, wealth, and im- 
portance that their representatives are summoned to the royal 
counsels as a third estate of the realm — the rivals and future 
supplanters of the feudal lords spiritual and temporal. 

With this background in mind, let us now turn to the 
chroniclers. And first let us note this about them : until the 
last century or two of the Middle Ages they are one and all 
churchmen; for though it would be inexact to say that no 
one else could read or write, nevertheless in those unsettled 
times ecclesiastical foundations were the only seats of learning, 
and no one else had the leisure and equipment to write any 
sort of history. Of the men on whom we depend for our 
medieval annals, Gildas, Bede, Alcuin, Asser, Malmesbury, 
Newburgh, Coggeshall, Paris, Knighton, Froissart, Walsing- 
ham, Capgrave (to name no others out of a great number) 
are all ecclesiastics, and mostly monks. Not until the four- 
teenth century in Italy or the fifteenth in England do we fmd 
laymen writing chronicles. The whole history of the Middle 
Ages, except the very end of the story, is told by Catholic 
clerics. This is an important point; for it is the fashion to 
accuse critical historians of the Middle Ages of anti-Catholic 
muck-raking. The best answer to the charge is to let the 
monkish chroniclers speak for themselves. 

Gildas, the oldest British historian, need not detain us long. 



I 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 157 

We do not know when or where he was bom or died : the 
only Hves of him date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries 
and are worthless. He himself tells us that the year of his 
birth was that in which the Britons fought the Saxons at 
"Mount Badon"; but as that event is variously dated 
between 497 and 520, the statement does not help us much. 
It has nevertheless a certain negative value ; for later medieval 
romance numbered this battle among the victories of Arthur, 
and the total silence of Gildas, the only contemporary British 
writer, goes far to relegate that Celtic hero to the realm of 
myth. Gildas was evidently an ecclesiastic : his book on 
The Destruction of Britain professes to be written from " zeal 
for God's house and for his holy law," and consists chiefly 
of invective against the vices of contemporary British chiefs, 
between whom and the Saxon invaders there seems little 
to choose. Britain had naturally been one of the first provinces 
abandoned by Rome as the empire tottered to its fall. Its 
outlying position rendered it indefensible when Germans were 
already overrunning Gaul. Nor need we doubt the statement 
of Gildas that British rulers called in the Saxons to defend them 
against the Picts and Scots. That would be all of a piece with 
imperial pohcy in the days of decline. Gildas' general capacity 
as a historian may be judged from his statement that Christianity 
was introduced into Britain in the reign of Tiberius — an event 
unnoticed by any earher writer. His lamentable account of 
his own time, of cities laid desolate by foreign and civil war, 
is credible enough. Indeed, a conclusive proof, if no other 
existed, of the ruin of Britain in the sixth century is that it 
produced only one writer, and that writer Gildas. 

With our next historian, Bede, we pass from the wreckage 
of Britain to the beginnings of England. But at this point 
Enghsh history cannot be understood without some reference 
to its continental background. 

The fall of the Roman Empire had led to the rise to power 
of the Roman Church. This does not mean merely that the 
removal of the seat of empire to Constantinople gave the 
bishop of Rome an opportunity to make claims which he 
would not otherwise have been able to make. An effective 
Germanic domination of Italy would have denied him that 



158 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

Opportunity. But in the sixth century the Goths were not 
strong enough to hold Italy ; and Constantinople, though able 
to turn them out at the price of twenty years' terrific slaughter 
and devastation, had not the strength to hold the country it 
had *' liberated/' The Roman Church stepped into the 
vacuum. Endowed by the gifts and bequests of the faithful 
over many centuries with ample resources in land and serfs 
in Italy and elsewhere, the bishop of Rome was in a better 
position than the emperor to see to the governmeiit and defence 
of the city ; and Constantinople was content to leave the task 
to him. So originated the temporal power of the Papacy. 

In 590 the popular abbot Gregory was elected Pope — the 
first monk to be so elected. Monk though he was, and saint 
though he is said to have been, he was undeniably a master 
of power-politics, and never hesitated to make friends of the 
unrighteous if it served his purpose. He was an ardent 
flatterer of the Prankish queen Brunhilda, whose main merits 
were that she was a convert from Arianism and a protectress 
of the Church. Worse still, " in two letters full of passages 
from Scripture, and replete with fulsome and blasphemous 
flattery,"^ he calls on heaven and earth to rejoice at the 
accession of the usurping emperor Phocas, for no better 
reason than that his murdered predecessor, Maurice, had for- 
bidden serving soldiers to become monks and had supported 
the claims of the see of Constantinople against Rome. We 
need not, therefore, suppose that Gregory's decision to send 
a mission to England was due to disinterested zeal for the 
souls of the English. The story told by Bede of Gregory's 
interest in English slave-boys at Rome and of his feeble 
punning on the name of their country and king almost stamps 
itself as apocryphal. It was Gregory's policy and that of his 
successors to build up as wide as possible a spiritual dominion 
in the West in order to render themselves temporally inde- 
pendent and to make the Papacy what eventually it became, 
" the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire, sitting crowned 
upon the grave thereof." ^ 

^ Lecky, History of European Moralsy chap. IV. Cf. Gibbon, Decline 
and Fall chap. XLVL 
2 Hobbes, Leviathan. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 159 

We learn from Bede of the masterly opportunism enjoined 
by Gregory on his missionaries. Pagan temples are not to 
be destroyed, but are to be converted into churches, idols 
being replaced by relics of martyrs, and pagan festivals by 
Christian " church ales " at which the faithful eat and drink 
to the glory of God. This is in keeping with ecclesiastical 
practice in every converted country. From the first days 
of the victory of the Church in the fourth century relics had 
been credited with miraculous powers similar to those pre- 
viously attached to pagan images. From this it was a short 
step to their fraudulent manufacture. Before the fourth 
century was out the Christian world was full of pieces of the 
" true cross." The thing became a racket which nothing 
could stop. No church was validly consecrated unless a 
reUc was placed in the altar. Not only so, but before the end 
of the sixth century images, too, were venerated. Gregory 
forbade a GaUic bishop to destroy them, since (said he) they 
were useful " for instructing the minds of the ignorant." ^ 
Educated pagans had defended idolatry on similar lines. 
The Christianity propagated by Gregory was in fact a bap- 
tized paganism. So long as pagans were baptized and became 
his spiritual subjects he seems to have been content that they 
should remain in essentials pagan. 

Bede, a Church historian of unusual candour, makes it 
clear that this was in fact the case. Pious writers, who never 
tire of repeating the edifying story of Gregory and the English 
slaves, slur over the actual process of the conversion of Eng- 
land. This, as with other barbarian peoples, meant in the 
first place the conversion of the kings. Once a king was 
baptized his people followed his example. Bishoprics and 
monasteries were founded and endowed with land; and in 
return the Church became the loyal ally of the secular arm. 
The time-honoured picture of saintly men of evangelical 
poverty preaching the gospel of peace to the rude barbarians 
and subduing them by moral influence alone is not borne out 
by the facts. Conversion was by no means always by peaceful 
persuasion. On the contrary, as early as 640, less than fifty 
years from the landing of Augustine, we read that Ercon- 
^ Gregory I, Letters, viii, 2, iii ; ix, 4, 11. 



l60 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

berht, king of Kent, *' first of the kings of the English ordered 
by his princely authority that idols should be forsaken and 
destroyed in his whole kingdom, and also that the Lenten 
fast should be kept. And that none might lightly despise 
these commands, he imposed worthy and sufficient punish- 
ment on transgressors." ^ In 686, when Bede was a boy in 
his teens, Ceadwalla of Wessex completed the conversion of 
England by a brutal massacre of the inhabitants of the Isle 
of Wight, the last stronghold of paganism. It is not sur- 
prising that Christianity imposed in this fashion was only 
skin-deep. Penda, the last pagan king of Mercia, is said to 
have tolerated Christian missions in his kingdom, but to 
have despised Christian converts for their pagan way of life. 
The story of ecclesiastical corruption begins, not in the times 
immediately preceding" the Reformation, but at the very 
outset of medieval history. Bede, writing in 734 to Egbert, 
archbishop of York, complains that there are many villages 
which have not seen a bishop or a Christian teacher of any 
kind for years on end, but are nevertheless forced to pay dues 
to a bishop, and that countless monasteries are anything but 
monastic in their manner of living. 

After Bede, our next authority is Alcuin of York. He was 
born in 735, the year of Bede's death, entered the Church, 
and in 780 was invited to the court of Charles the Great, 
who loaded him with favour and preferment. The rest of 
Alcuin's life, except for two visits to his own country, was 
spent at the Prankish court or in Prankish abbeys. He was 
employed by Charles to procure the condemnation of the 
Adoptionist heresy, which, under the influence of the Spanish 
Moslems, bad revived the old and probably primitive behef 
that Jesus was a mere man by birth, but Son of God by adop- 
tion. As Renan acutely observes, Islam derived an essential 
part of its strength from the adhesion of Christian sectaries 
persecuted by authority.^ To Catholic rulers heresy was a 
" fifth column." 

Although Alcuin wrote no chronicle, he left a voluminous 
correspondence with Charles, Offa of Mercia, and his own 

1 Bede, Ecclesiastical History, III, 8. 

2 Renan, Marc-Aurkle, chap. XXXIII. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY l6l 

fellow-ecclesiastics, mainly dating from the last decade of 
the eighth century. These letters throw a light very similar 
to that of Bede on the social conditions of the time, and in 
particular on the state of the Church. By this time the 
Viking raids on western Christendom, the second great wave 
of Teutonic migration, had begun. Abbeys with their accu- 
mulated wealth were a special temptation to marauders; 
and Alcuin's letters tell a double tale of internal corruption 
and external attack. Writing to OfFa, he speaks of " holy 
places wasted by the heathen, altars defiled by perjury, monas- 
teries profaned by adultery, a land befouled with the blood 
of lords and princes." In a later letter he complains that 
*' throughout the churches of Christ teachers of truth 
have perished; well-nigh all follow the vanities of the 
world and have in hatred the discipline of their rule ; and 
their men of war follow after covetousness more than 
justice." ^ This is the evidence, not of a disgruntled 
heretic, but of the most learned and orthodox churchman 
of his day. 

It is uninteUigible to many modems that medieval rulers 
should have taken so much trouble to enforce orthodoxy in 
behef and so little to enforce, or even practise, tolerable 
standards of conduct. Charles the Great, for example, forced 
the Saxons of North Germany to accept Christianity on pain 
of extermination, convened two successive synods to con- 
demn Adoptionism, and induced the Pope to add the Jilioque 
to the Nicene Creed.^ Yet Charles had two wives and a 
veritable harem of concubines, to say nothing of illegitimate 
sons. Had he lived ten generations earlier and worshipped 
Woden and Thor, his private life would doubtless have been 
much the same, but he would not have been so particular in 
theology. A barbarian chief of the fourth or fifth century 
might have put to death tribesmen who refused to worship 
Woden, but he would not have bothered his head whether 
Woden had always been a god or had begun as a man and 
worked his way up. Things like this lead impatient Ration- 

1 Alcuin, Letters, XLVUI and LXXIV. 

2 That is, to decree that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and 
the Son. 



l62 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

alists to conclude that Christianity contributed nothing to 
civiUzation except a greater propensity to intolerance. 

This is to misunderstand the historical situation. The later 
Roman emperors and their barbarian successors adopted 
Christianity, not on its spiritual merits, but for its secular 
utility. Charles the Great was trying (as it proved, with only 
ephemeral success) to build an empire out of the wreckage of 
the West. The mob of feudatories over whom he ruled — 
Franks, Gauls, Burgundians, Lombards, Italians, Bavarians, 
Saxons — had no common nationality and no common lan- 
guage. The only unifying force was the Church. By 
veiling the primitive beliefs of her converts with a thin 
veneer of Christianity, by dazzling them with priestcraft and 
bemusing them with miraculous relics and images, the 
Church had stepped into the shoes of paganism. With that 
force Charles had to keep on good terms : hence his orthodox 
zeal. The condemnation of Adoptionism served to dis- 
tinguish the God of Christendom, whose body the faithful ate 
at the altar every Sunday, from any mere prophet whom even 
a Moslem might honour. The addition of the filioque to 
the Creed served to distinguish the West, which owed spiritual 
obedience to Rome and temporal obedience to Charles, 
from the Greek and alien East. On both points piety spelt 
pohtical convenience. 

The chief authority for English history from the eighth to 
the twelfth century is the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle — or rather 
chronicles; for the work which passes under that name is a 
collection of monkish annals by different hands, ranging in 
date from the time of Alfred to the accession of Henry II, 
and having nothing in common but the fact that they are in 
Anglo-Saxon. Events prior to the reign of Alfred are dis- 
missed for the most part in brief notes based either on the 
Bible, on Roman history, on the works of Gildas and Bede, 
or simply on tradition. Only on grand occasions, as in 
relating the foundation of his own abbey, does a monkish 
author let himself go. But from the time of Alfred the 
chronicles " come alive." We feel that we are reading no 
longer a bored monk's transcription of the doings of dead 
cut-throats, but a contemporary's appreciation of a probably 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 163 

Still living king. From the dreary scenes of Viking devasta- 
tion there begin to emerge, as it were, the rudimentary organs 
of the England we know. 

" The same year also King Alfred fortified the city of 
London; and the whole nation turned to him, except 
that part of it which was held captive by the Danes. 
He then committed the city to the care of Alderman 
Ethered, to hold it under him." ^ 

We read in the tenth century of the fortification of many 
such places — Hertford, Stafford, Warwick, Nottingham, 
Manchester, and many others : chartered towns of the age to 
come. The establishment of these petty strongholds in the 
warfare between Enghsh and Danes was pregnant with a 
future undreamt of by the kings who ordered it or the monks 
who recorded it. 

After the union of England into a single kingdom by 
Athelstan in 926 the chronicles tail off into brief notes, broken 
only by the virile ballad of the battle of Brunanburgh (surely 
not of monkish origin) and other old poems, until we come 
to the troubled reign of Ethelred II, when a contemporary 
hand again writes a connected history. A miserable tale of 
rapine and extortion leads up to the Danish conquest by Cnut. 
The wretched condition of England at this time, during which 
the people had to pay Danegeld to an invading army as well 
as their ordinary taxes, seems to have led to popular risings 
of which record is lost. At any rate, the chronicler mentions 
in 1017, and again in 1020, the outlawry of a certain " Edwy, 
king of the churls," of whom we should like to know more. 

And so we come to the Norman Conquest, which cannot 
be understood without knowing a little of the Normans. 
The Scandinavian sea-rovers who called themselves Vikings 
were called by their enemies in western Europe Northmen or, 
in monkish Latin, Normanni. After Alfred had secured 
Wessex against them they turned their attentions to the 
ramshackle Prankish Empire. This was easy game. The 

^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 886. " Alderman " here means a king's 
officer and not a civic dignitary. 



l64 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

Carolingians (descendants of Charles the Great) were no 
more able to hold it together than their predecessors, the later 
Roman emperors, had been able to hold theirs in their day. 
The Northmen sailed up the Meuse, Scheldt, Somme, and 
Seine, ravaging at will, until in 911 the feeble West Prankish 
(or as we may now say, French) king, Charles the Simple, 
ceded the lower Seine and the adjacent coast to their chief, 
Rollo, on condition that he did him homage and accepted 
Christianity. To the sea-rovers the one condition probably 
meant as little as the other. 

Settled in France as feudal lords among a peasant population 
which had known no freedom for a thousand years, the 
Normans adopted the language of their neighbours — the 
clipped, slurred, adulterated Latin which was by now evolving 
into something like French — and assumed with gusto the 
role of grands seigneurs. Hilaire Belloc rhapsodizes pic- 
turesquely about ** some odd transitory phenomenon of 
cross-breeding " which " produced the only body of men 
who all were lords and who in their collective action showed 
continually nothing but genius."^ The Normans were all 
lords, for the simple reason that they had taken a slice of 
France and shared it out among them. Cross-breeding and 
genius had as much to do with it as with a Chicago gunman. 
Like many who take over a system ready-made, the Normans 
were quicker to work out a theory of feudalism than those 
who had arrived at it experimentally through centuries of 
struggle. In particular they were quick to note the key 
position held in feudal Europe by the Papacy, and the profit 
to be derived by making themselves its hired bravoes and 
bullies. By the end of the tenth century Normandy was too 
small to hold them. Peasants were in revolt against lords 
who skinned them to the bone. Cloaking their ancient trade 
of piracy under a show of piety, the Normans in the eleventh 
century began to sally and carve out kingdoms for themselves 
north, south, east, and west. 

At first they went south. No northern adventurer could 
resist the lure of the sunshine. In 1018 they were fighting the 
Moors in Spain. Later, having estabhshed themselves in 
1 Belloc, Hills and the Sea. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 16$ 

Apulia and proved in 1053, by taking Pope Leo IX prisoner, 
that they were not men to be trifled with, Norman free- 
booters under Robert Guiscard struck a bargain with him, 
bartered their temporal aid for his spiritual support, and as 
feudatories of the Holy See soon made themselves masters 
of southern Italy and Sicily, and the faithful henchmen 
of the Papacy in its quarrel with the empire. That set the 
precedent for Norman proceedings for the next hundred 
years. 

England was not so rich a prey as Italy, but it was nearer at 
hand. The way in which the story of the Norman Conquest 
is taught to us at school is a national disgrace. The close 
alliance of the Normans with the Papacy, which made the 
whole thing as much a piece of papal power-politics as of 
Norman filibustering, is carefully suppressed. Instead we 
are told a silly tale of Harold's shipwreck in Normandy, of 
his swearing an oath to William on relics which were not 
shown him till he had sworn, and of his perjury thereupon 
being a pretext for Wilham's expedition. The story is told 
only by Norman writers who, as Freeman points out, " all 
contradict one another." ^ It would be a poor compliment to 
Wilham to suppose him so puerile as to expect any man to 
keep an oath extorted by a trick. 

What the Conquest really did was to nip in the bud an 
EngHsh attempt, premature by some centuries, to slip the 
yoke of Rome. The story can be pieced together from the 
Anglo-Saxon and Norman chronicles. The pious Edward, 
more monk than king (and therefore a favourite with the 
monkish chroniclers), had tried to strengthen the connection 
with Rome by appointing Norman bishops to English sees. 
The result was a national movement in which Earl Godwin 
and his sons were in the position of popular leaders. They 
were certainly not disinterested : Saxon and Norman chronic- 
lers agree that Godwin had appropriated abbey property. 
But the movement had a popular basis. It is significant that 
now, for the first time in Enghsh history, we read of townsmen 
playing an independent role. The national movement begins 
with an affray between the retinue of a French count and the 
^ Freeman, Short History of the Norman Conquest, chap. V. 



l66 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

men of Dover, in which the town has the best of it. Godwin, 
ordered to chastise the townsmen, refuses, and is outlawed 
with his sons. They fly abroad and take to piracy. Godwin 
lands in Kent and is joined by " all the Kentish men, and all 
the boatmen from Hastings, and everywhere thereabout by 
the sea-coast, and all the men of Essex and Sussex and Surrey, 
and many others besides. Then said they all that they would 
with him live or die." ^ They sail up the Thames to London 
and win over the burgesses. The king's men are " loth to 
fight with their own kinsmen"; the Norman bishops run 
for their lives ; and the national movement is victorious, but 
only for a time. It was not to be expected that Rome or 
Normandy would take this provocation lying down. The 
price was paid in 1066, when William, with an army of 
Norman, French, Breton, Flemish, and other adventurers, and 
the blessing of Pope Alexander II, slew Harold Godwinsson 
at Hastings, ravaged the country, and made the Enghsh a 
subject people under French-speaking lords. 

It is interesting to note the reaction of contemporaries to 
this event. The Anglo-Saxon chronicler is visibly torn 
between his feelings as a patriot and as a monk. For most 
Englishmen the Conquest meant mere misery. *' Ever since 
has evil increased very much. . . . The king and the head men 
loved much, and overmuch, covetousness in gold and silver. 
. . . He recked not how very sinfuUy the stewards got it of 
wretched men, nor how many unlawful deeds they did. . . . 
Castles he let men build, and miserably swink the poor," 
and " extorted from his subjects many marks of gold, and 
many hundred pounds of silver; which he took of his people, 
for little need, by right and by unright." The Domesday 
survey, which to modem historians is an invaluable record of 
the condition of England at the time, is to the chronicler a 
disgraceful inquisition. "It is shameful to tell, though he 
thought it no shame to do it." And yet (and for the chronicler 
it is a very big yet) " he was mild to the good men that 
loved God. . . . On that same spot where God granted him 
that he should gain England, he reared a mighty minster, and 
set monks therein, and well endowed it. In his days was the 
^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1052. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 167 

great monastery in Canterbury built, and also very many 
others over all England." ^ 

Another English monk, Eadmer of Canterbury, notes 
WiUiam's exclusion of Englishmen from all preferment, but 
at the same time his determination to be master in his own 
house and to allow no papal intervention (such as that to 
which he owed his crown) to be invoked against himself. 
For in those days Gregory VII was over-reaching himself and 
claiming temporal supremacy over emperors and kings — 
thereby in the end alienating his Norman protectors in Italy 
and dooming himself to die in exile. 

The Norman chroniclers for their part, while proud of 
Wilham's services to the Church, do not attempt to hide the 
miserable condition of the people under him and his sons. 
Like the Enghsh chronicler, they tell a monotonous tale of 
extortion. But for them, as for monkish writers generally, 
the corporate interests of the Church come first. William 
of Malmesbury, who wrote about 1120, censures a certain 
bishop of Wells and abbot of Bath for having manumitted 
the abbey serfs on his deathbed, " setting his successors an 
example not to be imitated." ^ Yet Malmesbury owns that 
the papal court, to which the Church is subject, is utterly 
corrupt, " trading justice for gold, selling canon law for a 
price." ^ Such was the delectable racket which nowadays 
we are asked to revere as the fountain of freedom and 
civihzation. 

The third enterprise in which the Normans played a leading 
part was the First Crusade and the consequent establishment 
of Norman or French rule in Syria and Palestine. Once 
again popular history gives an inadequate and misleading 
account of events. We are asked to believe that the Crusades 
were the outcome of high-souled zeal for the recovery of the 
Holy Sepulchre from the Moslems. Now the Moslems had 
been in possession of Jerusalem and its dubious " holy places " 
for over four centuries, during which the West had shown 
no interest whatever in their recovery. The Moslems were 
not intolerant. Jews and Christians could live at peace under 

^ Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 1066, 1085, and 1087. 

2 Malmesbury, Gesta Regum, IV, 340. ^ Ibid., 351. 



l68 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

their empire on payment of a tax ; and pilgrimages to the 
Holy Land continued without interruption. True, Jerusalem 
had passed in 107 1 from the hands of the Fatimite caHphs into 
those of the Seljuk Turks. No doubt the Turks were rougher 
and ruder than the Arabs, but they were not more bigoted. 
Only in modem times, when Europe began to encroach on 
the Ottoman Empire, did the Turks take to massacring their 
Christian subjects. The sufferings of pilgrims under the 
Seljuks were such as anyone might expect who insisted on 
travelling in a strange country in unsettled conditions. Some- 
thing more is needed to account for the mass movement 
which swept western Europe in 109 5-1 096. It is to be found 
in the internal condition of the West rather than of the East. 
The western peoples were in a condition of indescribable 
misery. We have already seen the state of England after the 
Norman Conquest. France was in no better case. The 
Normans and other feudal robbers had picked their prey to 
the bone ; and there were not, as in England, even the begin- 
nings of a strong monarchy to moderate their brigandage. 
The wretched country was swept by private war, pestilence, 
and famine. Its serfs had every inducement to escape if 
they could; its lords every inducement to find some new 
country more worth plundering. No wonder that when 
Urban II, answering an appeal from the emperor of Con- 
stantinople, proclaimed a plenary indulgence for all who 
would enhst in a holy war against the infidel, a motley mass 
of emigrants, mobihzed by wandering preachers and tales of 
a land flowing with milk and honey, promptly set out east- 
ward. *' It was like the rush to the gold fields in modem 
times, but undertaken with far denser ignorance and under a 
more blinding glamour."^ Taking Urban a Httle too 
literally, they began the war on the infidel by massacring 
some ten thousand Jews in the trading towns of the Rjiine- 
land, and were themselves massacred by the Turks as soon as 
they set foot in Asia. They were followed by better- 
equipped French and Norman adventurers, no doubt equally 
in need of a plenary indulgence, and moreover bent on the 
more serious business of carving out principalities and king- 
^ Cunningham, Growth of English Industry and Commerce. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 169 

doms for themselves in the opulent East. They fought their 
way through Asia Minor to Antioch and Jerusalem, stormed 
the city, massacred seventy thousand Moslems without 
respect to age or sex, burnt the Jews alive in their synagogue, 
and ended a perfect day by falling with tears of joy before the 
Holy Sepulchre which they had come to hberate. Such was 
what a contemporary abbot and historian, Guibert of Nogent, 
called a " new way of salvation." ^ 

The fourth and last sphere of Norman prowess was Ireland. 
Ireland had never been part of the Roman Empire, and in 
spite of St. Patrick and its reputation as the "isle of saints," 
until the twelfth century it was only semi-Christian. Indeed, 
the Irish saints usually made a point of quitting their homeland 
for some country where saints could live. The mass of Irish 
were not far removed from savagery. They lived in village 
communities under petty lords owning allegiance to local 
kings and ultimately to a " supreme king " whose supremacy 
was seldom more than nominal, and, despite a veneer of 
Christianity, were essentially pagan in their way of life. 
Even if we dismiss as prejudiced the statement of a Norman 
chronicler that " most of them had as many wives as they 
would, and were wont to have even their own sisters to wife," ^ 
there is no doubt that pagan marriage customs prevailed. 
Worse still from the point of view of the Church, they paid 
no tithes and baptized their children without the assistance 
of a priest. So when Pope Alexander III gave his blessing to 
Henry II's conquest of Ireland, Strongbow and his fellow- 
filibusters could say that in helping themselves to Irish lands 
they were serving Holy Church. After all, it was no more 
than their ancestors had done in England a century before. 
In II 71 at the Synod of Cashel the Irish clergy acknowledged 
Henry their temporal sovereign and the Pope their supreme 
director in faith and morals. In Ireland, as in England, Italy, 
and Palestine, the Normans turned their orthodoxy to profit- 
able account. 

If the test of orthodoxy (as Vincent of Lerins thought) is 

^ Guibert, Gesta Dei per Francos, quoted by Gibbon, Decline and Fall, 
LVIIL 
^ Gesta Henrici Secundi. 



lyO MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

that a belief shall have been held " everywhere, always, and 
by all," no article of the Creed can be called orthodox. From 
the very beginning of Christianity there has been diversity of 
beUef. Throughout the Middle Ages, despite all attempts to 
dragoon men and women into submission to the vast vested 
interest which was the Catholic Church, there were heresies. 
The East, where Christianity had first arisen and where Islam 
now disputed its monopoly, was a fertile nursing-ground of 
heresy. Before the rise of Islam, as early as the sixth century, 
and thereafter in the eighth and ninth, we fmd in Armenia 
a sect whom the orthodox named Paulicians, after Paul of 
Samosata, the heretical third-century bishop of Antioch. In 
reality they were an omnium gatherum of outcasts of various 
origins — Marcionites, Manichaeans, followers of Paul of 
Samosata, Iconoclasts who objected to image-worship, and 
others^ — driven by repression to the confines of the empire 
and welded into one by common opposition to the persecuting 
orthodox Church. Their numbers ran to many hundreds 
of thousands. From the point of view of Constantinople, to 
leave them in Asia, where they might and often did side with 
the Moslem enemy, was dangerous. The most ferocious 
persecutions failed. So in the eighth and tenth centuries the 
Byzantine emperors deported more than two hundred thousand 
of these sectaries from Armenia to the Balkans to hold the 
frontier against the Bulgars, thus introducing their heresy into 
Europe. The transplanted heretics, instead of fighting the 
Bulgars, fraternized with them and converted them. From 
the Balkans the contagion spread in all directions along the 
trade routes, by the eleventh century had reached Italy and 
France, and in the twelfth Germany and England. As they 
spread westward, the heretics acquired many different nick- 
names. In Slav countries they were known as Bogomils 
(" God-prayers," " devotees ") ; in Italy as Patarenes (" rag- 
men ") because they were found mainly among the poor of 
the Italian cities; in France as Tixerands (" weavers "), Albi- 
genses from Albi in the territory of Toulouse, where they were 
strong, and Bulgars, from their supposed country of origin 
— a name soon corrupted into a low term of abuse. Their 
name for themselves was Cathari, " the pure." 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY I7I 

In the Cathars the Catholic Church was confronted by a 
resistance movement, Unked together by secret correspondence 
between Armenia and Bulgaria, between Bulgaria and western 
Europe. Our knowledge of them is derived almost wholly 
from their enemies. By the time when chroniclers begin to 
notice them, their tenets have crystaUized along certain well- 
defmed lines. Not God, but Satan, is the creator of this 
world; and mankind are his slaves. God sent Christ to free 
mankind from slavery. Christ was not God, but an angel 
in human form who became Son of God by merit. We may 
become free by avoiding the pleasures of this Satanic world. 
The dominant Church, with its Pope, priests, monks, sacra- 
ments, and reUcs, is unchristian. Infant baptism is unscrip- 
tural; the Mass a superstition; the worship of crosses, images, 
and rehcs idolatry. In the true Church there are no priests, 
and the only distinction of rank is between the " perfect** — 
the bons hommes as they were called in France, the few men 
and women who have renounced the world, including sex, 
flesh food, and any kind of violence, and become to all intents 
and purposes Christs — and the " believers " — the many who 
Hve a normal hfe and are not yet " perfect,'* but hope to 
become so, and may profit by the prayers of those who are. 
Most Cathars not unnaturally deferred admission to the ranks 
of the " perfect " until their death-bed. Yet they believed 
that all mankind, if not here and now, nevertheless in some 
future incarnation, would become perfect and free from the 
prison of the world. 

How was it that what seems to us an arid and depressing 
creed, which treated the whole visible world as the domain 
of the devil and saw perfection in the negation of natural 
instincts, could find adherents and martyrs by the hundred 
thousand in the East and in the West? The answer is that 
Catharism was a protest against the corruption, oppression, 
and hypocrisy of the official Church, whether Greek or Latin. 
The official Church, East and West, had become a vested 
interest, the auxihary policeman of Byzantine, Prankish, or 
Norman rulers, and itself the greatest landowner and serf- 
owner of the Middle Ages. Hundreds of thousands of simple 
Christians beUeved that in so doing the Church had com- 



172 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

pounded with Satan and betrayed its trust. They turned 
away from it to an anti-Church whose ministers, even if they 
set up standards impossible for average human nature to fulfd, 
at least themselves fulfilled them and did not, under a cynical 
pretence of holiness, feather their nests at the expense of 
common men and women. They held that Satan was the 
creator of the world, because the world in which they Uved 
was in fact Satanic — a world of brutal anarchy, a Dark Age. 
They held that they could escape only by renouncing life, 
because no other way was in fact yet open. 

There is something moving in the description by an enemy, 
the contemporary chronicler William of Newburgh, of the 
Cathar mission to England in the reign of Henry II and of its 
suppression in 1166 by Henry, who, though not a very good 
Catholic, did not want to be accused of heresy in the middle 
oPhis trouble with Becket. 

" There were a little more than thirty men and women 
who, dissembling their error, entered hither as it were 
peaceably to spread this plague, the leader being one 
Gerard, to whom they all looked as teacher and chief. 
For he only was in some sort lettered : the rest were 
unlettered and ignorant, altogether unpolished and rustic, 
of German race and language. . . . They could not hide 
themselves long, but, when certain men by diligence dis- 
covered that they were of an alien sect, they were tracked 
down, arrested, and held in a public prison. The king, 
unwilling to let them go or punish them untried, com- 
manded that a synod of bishops should assemble at 
Oxford. . . . Pressed with divine proofs taken from holy 
scripture, they answered that they for their part believed 
as they had been taught, but that they would not dispute 
concerning their faith. Admonished to do penance and 
be joined to the body of the Church, they spumed all 
sound counsel. Threats also (held forth with godly 
intent that they might repent, even were it from fear) 
they laughed to scorn, misusing that saying of the Lord : 
' Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' 
sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' Then the 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY I73 

bishops, seeing to it that the poison of heresy should 
creep no further, pubHcly pronounced them heretics 
and handed them over to the Cathohc prince for bodily 
chastisement. He commanded that a mark of heretical 
infamy should be branded on their foreheads and that 
they should be beaten with rods and driven out of the 
town in the sight of the people, straitly forbidding that 
any should receive them into his house or presume to 
help and comfort them in anything.^ Sentence being 
given, they were led rejoicing to a most righteous punish- 
ment, their teacher going before them with light steps 
and singing : * Blessed shall ye be when men shall hate 
you ' ... He who held first place among them suffered 
in token of his office the shame of a double branding on 
the forehead and about the chin. With garments cut 
away up to the girdle, they were publicly flogged and 
cast out of the town with resounding stripes, and unable 
to brook the cold (for it was winter) and no one showing 
them the least mercy, they perished miserably." ^ 

Catharism on the continent was a more formidable affair. 
In Italy and southern France, the trading towns, enriched by 
traffic with the Moslem world, were but lightly attached to 
the faith. Denunciations of the wealth and worldliness of 
the clergy found a ready echo in such cities as Milan and 
Lyons, and even for a time in Rome itself, where in 11 43 
the temporal power of the Pope was overthrown and only 
restored in 11 54 by the intervention of Frederick Barbarossa. 
This movement does not seem to have been actually heretical, 
though its spokesman, Arnold of Brescia, was hanged and 
burnt. ^ Southern France gave the Papacy far more trouble. 

^ All sheriffs, barons' stewards, knights, and freeholders were obHged to 
swear that they would not harbour any Cathar. Assize of Clarendon, 
article 21, cited by Stubbs, Select Charters, part IV. 

2 Newburgh, Historia Rerum Anglicarum, II, 13. These facts dispose of 
the eccentric theory of Hugh Ross Williamson in The Arrow and the Sword 
that Henry and Becket were crypto-Cathars. 

^ Gibbon says that Arnold was burnt ahve {Decline and Fall, LXIX). 
But Villari {Encyclopcedia Britannica, article "Rome") and Alphandery 
(article " Arnold of Brescia ") agree that he was hanged first. 



174 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

The people were attached to the ascetic bons hommes, and pre- 
ferred them to the grasping Cathohc clergy. A great part 
of the southern nobihty protected them. Far from being 
summoned before episcopal synods, the Cathars were able to 
hold synods of their own undisturbed. By the end of the 
twelfth century it looked as if the south of France were lost 
to the Church. In 1207 Pierre de CasteLnau, legate of Pope 
Innocent III, excommunicated Raymond VI, Count of 
Toulouse, for aiding and abetting heresy. In 1208 Raymond 
had Pierre assassinated. Thereupon Innocent resorted to the 
ultimate weapon of the Papacy : he proclaimed a crusade 
against Raymond and invited the whole Catholic nobihty of 
France to invade and occupy his lands. Raymond had no 
stomach for the fight, and submitted at once. But the 
crusade was not called off. Cupidity and bigotry had their 
way. Let Gibbon sum up. 

" The visible assemblies of the Pauhcians, or Albigeois, 
were extirpated by fire and sword; and the bleeding 
remnant escaped by flight, concealment, or Catholic 
conformity. But the invincible spirit which they had 
kindled still lived and breathed in the Western World." ^ 

The thirteenth century is the turning-point in medieval 
history. Thenceforth the " kingdom of darkness," as Hobbes 
calls the Catholic hierarchy, is forced on to the defensive. 
The grave-diggers of feudalism are already at work. In Italy, 
where ancient civilization had never quite died out, maritime 
communities like Venice and Genoa held their own through 
the darkest of the Dark Ages as free towns in a sea of bar- 
barism, to be emulated later by Milan (the meeting-place of 
transalpine trade routes), Cremona, Mantua, Pisa, Florence, 
and many another centre of thriving civic life. The Crusades 
brought prosperity to Italian merchants by opening up the 
East. With trade came impatience of feudal and clerical 
domination. The rivalry between the Pope and the German 
emperor for supremacy in Italy enabled the cities, by playing 
off one against the other, to make themselves independent of 

^ Decline and Fall, chap. LIV. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY I75 

both. "The city of Milan," writes Matthew Paris, "was a 
refuge and asylum of all manner of heretics, Patarenes, Luci- 
ferani, Paulicians, Albigenses, and usurers." Frederick II, 
who was at hfelong loggerheads with both the Papacy and the 
Lombards, sarcastically " wondered that the lord Pope was 
in any wise favourable to the Milanese, seeing that it behoved 
him to be the father of the godly and the hammer of the un- 
godly."^ The Popes had, in fact, financial reasons for 
favouring the Lombard cities. Their merchants were bankers 
to the Holy See. Moreover, they were doing very profitable 
business in economically backward countries, such as England, 
for example, then was, and provided that the profits (which 
might amount to sixty per cent) were shared with the Pope, 
were allowed to dodge the canon law against usury. For such 
considerations the Papacy was ready to wink even at heresy. 
In the absence of such reasons the newly estabHshed Inquisition 
was set ruthlessly to work to ferret out and bum the enemies 
of the Church. 

It was the cruelty of fear. A Papacy which did not respect 
its own canon law could not hope to retain the respect of 
Europe. Dante*s bitter Unes to a Pope — one of those whom 
he puts in hell — are worth quoting : 

I pray thee tell me now how great a treasure 
Our Lord demanded of Saint Peter first, 
Before he put the keys into his keeping? 
Truly he notliing asked but '* Follow me.'* 
Nor Peter nor the rest asked of Matthias 
Silver or gold, when he by lot was chosen 
To fill the place the guilty soul had lost. 
Therefore stay here, for thou art justly punished, 
And keep safe guard o'er the ill-gotten money . . . 
And were it not that I am still forbid 
By reverence for the keys superlative 
Thou hadst in keeping in the gladsome life, 
I would use words to thee more grievous still ; 
Because your avarice afflicts the world, 
TrampHng the good and lifting the depraved. 
The Evangelist you Pastors had in mind, 
When she who sitteth upon many waters 
Was seen by him to fornicate with kings . . . 
Ye have made yourselves a god of gold and silver : 

^ Paris, Chronica Majora, 1236. 



176 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

How differ ye from the idolater. 
Save that he worships one, and ye a hundred? 
Ah, Constantine ! of how much ill was mother 
Not thy conversion, but that marriage dower 
Which the first wealthy Father took from thee ! ^ 

The Italian cities, though rich and free, could never make 
common cause; and there was no strong power to impose 
union on them. The emperor was too far off, and the Pope 
too discredited. " My Caesar, why hast thou forsaken me? " 
cries Dante in his vain quest for a monarch.^ But in France 
and England new nations were forming. In both countries 
the king found the towns useful allies and sources of revenue 
in his struggle with the feudal lords — England in this matter 
being slightly ahead of France. In 1191, in the absence of 
Richard I on his Crusade, London won at last the right to 
elect its own sheriffs and mayor — much to the discontent of 
churchmen, who quoted the proverb : "A corporate town 
means a fat people, a fearful king, a feeble priesthood." ^ 
Paris had its charter about the same time from Philip Augustus, 
the first great king of France since Charlemagne — the same 
who took Normandy from John. Nominally under France, 
but linked with England by their dependence on its wool, 
were the Flemish cities, Bruges, Ghent, Ypres, and their 
lesser sisters. 

In the thirteenth century the towns increased greatly in 
wealth and importance. Henry III, a pious puppet in the 
hands of the Papacy, could see in the citizens of London only 
" serfs who were sickeningly rich and masqueraded as barons.*'* 
He paid for his extortions and insults when London and other 
towns, defying a papal bull, sided with Simon de Montfort 
and were for the first time invited to send members to sit 
with the lords spiritual and temporal in the Parliament of 
1265. For this temerity London, after Evesham, forfeited 
its charter for five years. But Edward I understood the 
signs of the times better than his father had done and made 
Simon's innovation permanent. 

^ Dante, Inferno, canto XIX. ^ Purgatorio, canto VI. 

3 Richard of Devizes, Chronicle, cited by Stubbs, Select Charters, part V. 

* Paris, Chronica Majora, 1248. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY I77 

In France it was not until 1302 that Philip IV, in order to 
have the nation behiad him in resisting Boniface VIII, called 
together the States-General — clergy, nobles, and bourgeois. 
In the following year Phihp's councillor, Guillaume de 
Nogaret (a man of bourgeois origin and, it is said, the son 
of a condemned heretic), went to Italy and with the aid of 
Boniface's Roman enemies took him prisoner at Anagni. 
There are few more contemptible figures in history than this 
Boniface. He was reported, probably with truth, to be an 
infidel at heart. In the thirteenth century Greek philosophy, 
through the medium of Arabic and Latin versions, was per- 
meating learned circles in the West with revolutionary effect. 
Yet Boniface had the hardihood to revive, a hundred years 
too late, the overweening claims of Gregory VII and Inno- 
cent III to suzerainty over secular rulers. The French intended 
to bring him to France and compel him to summon a General 
Councfl which would depose him for heresy. He was rescued, 
but in little over a month was dead of chagrin and shock. 
In 1305 a French Pope was elected and the Papacy removed 
to Avignon. Thus the first meeting of the French States- 
General heralded the end of the glory of medieval Rome. 
In the far future a more famous meeting was to herald a 
greater Revolution. England in 1265 and France in 1302 
seem to begin rehearsing their dramas of four or five centuries 
later. 

In the last two centuries of medieval history we hear the 
rumble of the coming storm of the Reformation. In the 
womb of feudal society, in Italy, in France, in Flanders, in 
England, and as far afield as the Baltic countries, bourgeois 
society already exists in embryo, and the time of delivery is 
in sight. Flemish weavers, to escape French domination, 
take themselves and their industry to England, with the result 
that in 1337 England stops exporting wool to Flanders and 
begins to foster home industry instead. The Flemish cities, 
bereft of their trade, transfer their allegiance from Philip VI 
to Edward III. This, rather than Edward's flimsy claim to 
the French throne, is the real cause of the Hundred Years' 
War. 

But the war would not have lasted, on and off, for a 



lyS MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

hundred years for that alone. In the middle years of the 
fourteenth century the miserable, underfed populations of 
Europe were swept from south to north by bubonic plague, 
known in those days as the Black Death. On a sober estimate 
a quarter of the population must have died ; contemporary 
estimates are much higher, but we need not take them hterally. 
As the mortality was naturally greater in the poorer classes, 
feudal economy was dislocated. In England, " such a lack 
arose of serfs and servants, that there was none who knew 
what he should do. . . . Much corn perished in the fields for 
lack of a reaper. . . . And so all necessaries became so dear, 
that that which in past time had been worth a penny was at 
that time worth fourpence or fivepence." Consequently " the 
great men of the realm, and other lesser lords who had tenants, 
remitted part of the rent, lest the tenants should depart for 
lack of serfs and for dearth of things." ^ In a word, the 
diminished labouring population could not carry on their 
backs the feudal superstructure which hitherto had rested on 
them. The lords had to recoup themselves in other ways. 
One was to plunder foreign countries and hold their nobles 
and knights to ransom. The Hundred Years* War was pro- 
longed by the fact that, to lords and gentlemen impoverished 
by the Black Death, war was a means of keeping up their 
state and employing retainers who otherwise would have 
been turned off. Hence even after the peace of Bretigny 
in 1360 " free companies " went on ravaging France until 
they could be induced to transfer their depredations to other 
theatres of war. 

But war had the disadvantage of paying only the winners. 
Having in a few years lost most of their gains in France, the 
gentlemen of England had to think again. The whole feudal 
system was beginning to stink. Already in 13 56-13 58 the 
French States-General, led by Etienne Marcel, had tried to 
seize power by applying the financial screw, and French 
peasants had risen against the nobles in the Jacquerie — move- 
ments anticipatory of 1789, which failed through lack of 
cohesion, and ended in the murder of Marcel and the massacre 
of great numbers of peasants. Already, since 1360 or there- 
^ Knighton, Chronicle, 1348. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 179 

abouts, John Ball, the " mad priest," had preached in Essex 
and Kent the dangerous doctrines that " tithes should not be 
paid to parsons, unless he who paid were richer than the 
vicar or rector who received them";^ that they should be 
withheld altogether from priests of evil life; nay, more, that 
there should be "no villeins nor gentlemen," and that if 
men " laboured or did anything for their lords, they would 
have wages therefor as well as other." ^ And from 1374 John 
Wychffe, without going so far as Ball, argued that an un- 
righteous clergy had no title to property and might justly 
forfeit it to the civil power. This was popular doctrine. 
Many of the nobility sided with Wycliffe, perhaps the better 
to head off Ball. The citizens of London (" of all races in 
the world," says the monk Walsingham, " the proudest, 
most arrogant, most covetous, and most unbelieving in God 
and the traditions of their fathers; upholders of the Lollards, 
slanderers of the religious, withholders of tithes, and impover- 
ishers of the common people " ^) were overwhelmingly with 
Wychffe. 

The Papacy, for seventy years a French puppet, was no 
longer respected in England or in any country with national 
interests opposed to those of France. Some English lords, 
the chronicler complains, " believed that there was no God, 
that the sacrament of the altar was nought, that there was 
no resurrection after death." ^ In 1377 Gregory XI, alarmed 
lest Italy should revolt, left Avignon for Rome. The result 
was the Great Schism of 1378, when the Italian cardinals 
elected one Pope and the French another. For forty years 
the West was split between a Roman and an Avignon Pope. 
Most of the Italian states, England, Germany, and central 
Europe supported Rome : France, Scotland, Spain, and Naples 
supported Avignon. In strict theology half the bishops and 
priests ordained during that period were without valid orders, 

^ Walsingham, Chronicon Anglice, 13 81. 

2 Froissart, Chronicle, chap. 381. The view that Ball advocated com- 
munity of goods seems inconsistent with these passages. 

^ W2[sm^2im,Historia Anglicana, 1392. Notice the charge of exploiting 
the people. Already the feudal pot calls the bourgeois kettle black. 

* Idem, Chronicon Anglice, 13 81. 



l80 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

half the Masses said were blasphemous parodies, and half 
western Christendom went unshriven to eternal damnation. 
The truth was that the new nations of western Europe refused 
to submit to the dictation of a power which, nominally 
spiritual and above nationality, was in fact as materially and 
secularly minded as themselves. The temper of the masses 
was manifested during the English revolt of 1 381, when Wat 
Tyler's men, threatened by Simon of Sudbury, archbishop of 
Canterbury, with a papal interdict, replied that they feared 
neither interdict nor Pope, and struck off his head. 

There is the presage of a new age in the chroniclers' accounts, 
all bitterly hostile, of the Peasant Revolt. It is as if the 
writers were forced in spite of themselves to acknowledge the 
existence and to give us a ghmpse of that underworld on 
which their decadent feudalism rested. The vernacular 
English of Ball's propaganda to the peasants breaks into the 
monkish Latin of the chronicles like a breath of fresh air 
into a stuffy cloister. 

"John Shepherd, some time St. Mary's priest of York, 
and now of Colchester, greeteth well John Nameless, 
and John the Miller, and John Carter, and biddeth them 
that they beware of guile in burgh, and stand together 
in God's name ; and biddeth Piers Ploughman go to his 
work, and chastise well Hob the Robber, and take 
with you John Trueman and all his fellows, and no 
more, and look sharp you to one head and no more."^ 

The Peasant Revolt in England, like the Jacquerie in France, 
was drowned in blood. The great lords were so frightened 
that they withdrew whatever support they had given to 
Wychffe. But lesser folk did not. In England Wycliffe's 
followers, the *' poor preachers " or Lollards, with their 
vernacular denunciations of the wealthy and worldly upper 
clergy and their plea for evangelical poverty, found a ready 
welcome among the smaller gentry, merchants, artisans, and 
peasants, and had spokesmen even in Parhament, until Church 

^ Walsingham, Chronicon Anglice, 13 81. The English has been slighdy 
modernized. 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY l8l 

and king forced through the statute De Hceretico Comburendo, 
burnt the more outspoken of them, and drove the rest under- 
ground. The modern Freethinker will gladly recognize in 
this movement a forerunner of his own. John Badby, who 
went to the stake in 1410 for saying that the consecrated host 
was '* inferior to a toad or a spider, which are at least living 
animals," was a fifteenth-century Paine or Bradlaugh. In 
central Europe Wychffe's doctrines were taken up by John 
Huss, who had the Czech nation behind him against papal 
rapacity and German encroachment. 

That the Catholic Church survived the Great Schism was 
due to the action of secular rulers who could not dispense 
with it as an instrument of government. While Henry IV 
and Henry V crushed the English Lollards, the German 
emperor Sigismund had the Council of Constance convened 
to settle the schism. It was high time; for the two Popes 
had now become three. The Council started work in 141 5 
by luring Huss to Constance under an imperial safe-conduct 
and burning him ahve. On that the whole hierarchy could 
agree. Further, it deposed all three Popes and elected its 
own man, terminating the schism. But the medieval Papacy 
never recovered its lost prestige. Power in the West had 
defmitely passed to national rulers; and the rising merchant 
class cared less than nothing for these unconvincing Vicars 
of Christ. 

Nothing so completely illustrates the subordination of the 
Church to secular politics as the case of Joan of Arc. In 143 1 
this peasant girl, who had put heart into the French people 
and led to victory troops whom the chivalry of France had 
led only to defeat, was handed over by the English (who were 
in occupation of northern France) to the Inquisition and burnt 
at Rouen as a heretic and a witch. The court which con- 
demned her was composed of French clergy. If it be pleaded 
that they acted under duress, the fact remains that neither 
Charles VII and his counsellors, nor the Church in unoccupied 
France, nor Pope Eugenius IV lifted a fmger to save her or to 
prevent the prostitution of the Holy Office to secular ends. 
Twenty-five years passed. The tide of war turned; Bur- 
gundy changed sides; England was thrown out of Paris, 



l82 MEDIEVAL HISTORY 

Normandy, and Guienne, and left with nothing but Calais 
to show for the Hundred Years' War. Then in 1456, to 
obhge the victorious Charles, Calixtus III solemnly revoked 
the sentence on the woman whom, a quarter of a century 
before, king, Church, and Pope had abandoned to the flames. 
The proceedings in the one trial were as regular as in the 
other, and the motives no higher. The main difficulty in 
getting at the history of Joan is that the facts have to be dis- 
tilled from the interested evidence tendered at one or the other 
of these two trials. 

We are at the end of the Middle Ages. Three material 
inventions combined to bring the period to a close and to 
usher in the modem world. In each case the actual origin 
of the invention is a matter of dispute. The mariner's compass 
seems to have been introduced into Europe by Italian traders 
at the time of the Crusades, and to have been used in the 
later Middle Ages by English merchants voyaging to Iceland. 
Gunpowder was known in the thirteenth century, but was 
first put to warlike use by the Florentines early in the four- 
teenth. The printing-press was invented in the first half 
of the fifteenth century, probably by Lourens Coster of 
Haarlem, who seems to have been prior to Gutenberg of 
Mainz. Of these three inventions, the work, not of monks 
or knights, but of traders and burghers, the first made ocean 
navigation possible, the second ended the military domination 
of the feudal lords, and the third gave the quietus to the 
clerical monopoly of learning. Without the first two it is 
unlikely that the new civilization of the West, jammed 
between Islam and the Atlantic, would even have survived. 
Without the third its survival would have been culturally 
sterile. 

The advance of the Osmanli Turks forced the West to 
rely on its new assets, and more especially on the mariner's 
compass; for in guns Islam was a match for Christendom. 
Superiority in artillery gave Constantinople to the Turks in 
1453. The only way in which western merchants could 
recoup themselves for the eastern trade lost by Turkish con- 
quests was by opening up a maritime highway to countries 
of Asia only precariously accessible by caravan. During the 



MEDIEVAL HISTORY 183 

fifteenth century Portuguese explorers gradually made their 
way southward along the coast of Africa. Others, relying 
on the arguments of ancient geographers for the sphericity 
of the earth and on travellers' tales of '' fortunate islands '* in 
the west, planned to reach Asia by sailing in that direction. 
Columbus, the Genoese, was not the first engaged in this 
quest. In 1480, twelve years before his great voyage, John 
Jay, a merchant of Bristol, fitted out two ships to sail west in 
search of the legendary " island of Brazil." They were 
driven back by storms ; but discovery was in the air. When 
Columbus, after vainly offering his services to John II of 
Portugal and Henry VII of England, at last managed to 
interest Ferdinand and Isabella in his schemes and to land in 
the New World, and when six years later Da Gama discovered 
the Cape route to India, the West had burst its prison, and 
the modem world was bom. 



CHAPTER XIII 

MODERN HISTORY 

THE materials for the history, I do not say of the world 
or even of Europe, but of any one country in Europe 
since the sixteenth century are so abundant that it is 
too much to expect even a specialist to master them all. The 
most that a non-speciahst can reasonably hope is to make 
himself at home among contemporary sources for one or two 
selected periods — preferably periods of crisis in which the 
forces making for change are more manifest than at other 
times — and to rely for the general background on books of 
reference and on the works of scholars who have heroically 
pre-digested for the general reader material which it would 
take him more than a lifetime to sort out for himself 

For these reasons I shall deal in this chapter only with two 
periods of English history and one of French. The Tudor 
Reformation, the English Revolution of the seventeenth 
century, and the French Revolution of the eighteenth are all 
periods answering to the description above given. Each is 
illuminated by a wealth of contemporary authorities well 
worth reading for their own sake; and on each period later 
historians have spent and are spending a labour of research 
to which there seems to be no end. 

For the sixteenth-century European background Preserved 
Smith's Age of the Reformation, and for the Tudor background 
in particular Green's Short History of the English People, 
Cunningham's Growth of English Industry and Commerce, 
Ashley's Introduction to English Economic History and Theory, 
and Creighton's Cardinal Wolsey and Queen Elizabeth are 
among the books which will be found useful. From them 
we get a general picture of the revolutionary century which 
immediately followed the discovery of the New World and 
of the sea route to the Far East. 

184 



MODERN HISTORY 185 

First, Europe's economic centre of gravity shifts from Italy 
to the Atlantic seaboard : pepper and other luxuries are 
brought to the West no longer in Venetian, but in Portuguese 
ships. Venice, bereft of her eastern territory and trade, falls 
into decay. Even her Italian possessions w^ould have been 
partitioned had the Pope, the emperor, and the French been 
able to agree over the spoils. England for a time is kept out 
of the New World by the Spanish and Portuguese monopoly, 
but never recognizes it : patents of exploration are granted 
from the first by Henry VII to the Cabots and other Bristol 
navigators. Protected or half-heartedly restrained by the 
Tudor monarchs, merchant adventurers are becoming a power 
in England — a power ready to ride roughshod over any vested 
interests, domestic or foreign, which bar them from a place 
in the sun. Even before the Reformation wealthy clothiers 
rented tracts of land to raise wool for their workshops, and 
set up workshops where they would, regardless of guild 
rules and town charters, which were now no longer necessary 
for the protection of trade. As Catholic writers often 
attribute such developments to Protestant avarice, it is as well 
to note that from the beginning of the fifteenth century, 
under the stimulus of the wool trade, the county of Norfolk 
was studded with villages where weavers worked wool into 
cloth for export by the great clothiers of the city of Norwich; 
that John Tame of Cirencester rented extensive sheep-runs 
at Fairford and bought lands for the same purpose all over 
the country, as early as 1480; and that as 'early as 1489 
Henry VII's Parliament had to take notice of the enclosure 
of arable land for pasture and the consequent decay of people 
and townships. 

Inevitably the rising bourgeoisie chafed at their depen- 
dence on local feudal lords and on the greatest feudal 
landowner of all, the Catholic Church and its monastic 
orders. The evictions by sheep-raising landowners in the 
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries at any rate meant the end of 
serfdom. What the insurgent peasantry had failed to effect, 
the bourgeoisie in their own interest brought about. For 
three centuries before the Reformation the burghers of Reading 
had fought the local abbot for the right to elect their own 



l86 MODERN HISTORY 

mayor and appoint their own constables; and for two cen- 
turies the men of Lynn — Bishop's Lynn as it then was — had 
fought the bishop of Norwich for similar freedoms. We 
fmd London on the very eve of the Reformation complaining 
of the privileged competition of aliens in its midst (the Hanse 
merchants settled at the Steelyard) and on the " evil May 
Day " of 1 5 17 carrying its protest to the point of rioting, 
which led to fourteen luckless citizens being hanged, drawn, 
and quartered. A society torn by such conflicts was tinder 
to the flame which Luther was soon to light. 

With this background in mind we can turn to our con- 
temporary sources. First among these is the Utopia of Sir 
Thomas More. More, a London citizen by birth and yet 
(owing to the Tudor policy of promoting new men) high 
in the service of Henry VIII, embodied in his own person 
the contradictions between the dying medieval order and the 
forces which were destroying it. In 15 16, when he pub- 
lished Utopia, the future martyr for papal supremacy was 
an ardent reformer, in matters of religion professing not 
only toleration, but even indiflerence. He depicts with 
an eloquent pen the misery caused by the conversion of 
arable land into pasture, and in doing so does not spare the 
Church. 

" Your sheep, that were wont to be so meek and tame, 
and so small eaters, now, as I hear say, be become so great 
devourers and so wild that they eat up and swallow down 
the very men themselves ; they waste and unpeople fields, 
houses, and towns. For in whatsoever parts of the 
realm grows finer wool, and therefore more precious, 
there do noblemen and gentlemen, yea and some holy 
abbots also (not content with those rents and yearly 
fruits which were wont to accrue to their fathers from 
their farms, nor satisfied that they Hve at ease and deli- 
cately, and profit the commonwealth nothing, if indeed 
they do not hinder it) leave nothing for tillage, but 
enclose all for pasture, put down houses, and destroy 
towns, leaving perchance the church to sty their swine; 
and as if forests and parks of deer wasted not enough of 



MODERN HISTORY 187 

your land, those good men turn all habitations and corn- 
land everywhere into a wilderness/'^ 

More doubtless exaggerates the extent of Tudor enclosures. As 
we might expect, they affected most the south-eastern counties 
(the centre of the wool trade) and the north and west much 
less. But so far as they extended, More's account accords with 
other evidence. The stying of swine in the church is con- 
firmed by Dugdale's Antiquities of Warwickshire, pubhshed in 
1656, which mentions that in 1494 enclosure and depopulation 
led to the stabhng of cattle in the church of Stretton Baskerville 
in that county. The general picture is borne out by con- 
temporary legislation, which vainly tries to stem the evil. 

From More we may pass to contemporary chroniclers, 
and first and foremost to Edward Hall, lawyer and member 
of Parliament, whose work in its present form extends to the 
death of Henry VIII. We are now in the age of EngHsh 
chronicles. The stream of monastic Latin dwindles to a 
wretched trickle during the fifteenth century; and its last 
representatives are not worth reading. The rise of a new lay 
educated pubhc created a market for EngUsh books which 
the printing-press was able to supply. HaU's Chronicle may 
be recommended as a corrective to anyone who believes the 
Cathohc story that the Enghsh Reformation was an accident 
due to Henry VIII's adulterous passion for Anne Boleyn. 
In London and other towns Lollardy had simmered since 
the age of Wychffe. In 15 14, three years before Luther 
nailed to the church door at Wittenberg his ninety-five theses 
against indulgences, and when Anne Boleyn was yet a child, 
the bishop of London induced Wolsey to quash proceedings 
against the chancellor of the diocese for the murder of Richard 
Hun (a merchant tailor accused of heresy for refusing to pay 
a mortuary, who had been found hanged in his cell in the 
Lollards' Tower at St. Paul's) on the ground that Londoners 
were " so mahciously set in favour of heretical pravity, that 
they will cast and condemn any clerk, though he were as 
innocent as Abel." ^ Luther's theses fired a train already laid 
in every trading city of north-western Europe. 

1 More, Utopia, 39. 2 Hall's Chronicle, 6 Henry Vm. 



l88 MODERN HISTORY 

From Hall, too, we learn of the deep hatred inspired by 
Wolsey. It was not only the feudal nobility who detested 
the upstart. They hated him, indeed, as an agent of Tudor 
despotism and a repressor of the private lawlessness which 
had run riot during the Wars of the Roses in the previous 
century. But because great men hated him, smaller men 
did not therefore love him. The game of power-pohtics 
which he played in Europe alternately against France and 
against the emperor Charles V led to heavy war taxation, and 
that in turn in 1523 to resistance by the House of Commons, 
and in 1525 to a revolt in Norfolk and Suffolk. Hall's 
account of this rising throws light on the social changes, 
already noted, which the growth of the wool trade had 
brought about in East Anglia. Charles Brandon, Duke of 
Suffolk, Henry's brother-in-law, was appointed commissioner 
for levying the tax in Suffolk. Thereupon — 

" The rich clothiers . . . called to them their spinners, 
carders, fuUers, weavers, and other artificers, which were 
wont to be set a work and have their livings by cloth 
making, and said, * Sirs, we be not able to set you a 
work, our goods be taken from us, wherefore trust to 
yourselves, and not to us, for otherwise it will not be.' 
Then began women to weep and young folks to cry, 
and men that had no work began to rage, and assemble 
themselves in companies. . . . The people railed openly 
on the Duke of Suffolk and Sir Robert Drury,^ and 
threatened them with death, and the Cardinal also, and 
so . . . there rebelled four thousand men, and put them- 
selves in harness, and rang the bells alarm, and began to 
gather still more. Then the Duke of Suffolk, perceiving 
this, began to raise men, but he could get but a small 
number, and they that came to him said that they would 
defend him from all perils if he hurt not their neighbours, 
but against their neighbours they would not fight. Yet 
the gentlemen that were with the Duke did so much 
that all the bridges were broken, so that their assembly 
was somewhat letted." 

^ A local landowner. 



MODERN HISTORY 189 

The Duke of Norfolk, who was sent to levy the tax in that 
county, had no better success. A spokesman of the insur- 
gents, one John Green, addressed him thus : 

*' My lord, since you ask who is our captain, forsooth 
his name is Poverty. . . . For all these persons and many 
more hve not of ourselves, but we live by the substantial 
occupiers of this country; and yet they give us so httle 
wages for our workmanship that scarcely we be able to 
hve. . . . And if they, by whom we live, be brought in 
that case that they of their little cannot help us to earn 
our hving, then must we perish and die miserably. I 
speak this, my lord : the clothmakers have put away 
all their people, and a far greater number, from work. 
The husbandmen have put away their servants and given 
up household; they say the king asketh so much that 
they be not able to do as they have done." 

The two dukes, pleased at Wolsey's discredit, took this lesson 
in elementary economics in good part and promised to 
intercede with Henry. 

" Then the demand of money ceased in all the realm, 
for well it was perceived, that the commons would none 
pay. . . . Now here is an end of this commission, but not 
an end of inward grudge and hatred, that the commons 
bare to the Cardinal, and to all gentlemen which 
vehemently set forth that commission and demand." ^ 

The descendants of slaves and serfs are learning to act 
together as freemen. A century or so later the great-grand- 
sons of the spinners and weavers who resist Wolsey will man 
Cromwell's army and lay the foundations of English 
democracy. 

No wonder, then, that when Wolsey fell in 1529 he had 
no friends. It is impossible to feel pity for this proud, greedy, 
lecherous churchman — the very incarnation of the vices 
which throughout the Middle Ages had brought the CathoHc 
hierarchy into hatred and contempt, and were now dashing it 

1 Hall, op. cit., 17 Henry VIII. 



IpO MODERN HISTORY 

to its fall. The pseudo-Shakespearian lines in the play of 
Henry VIII delineating Wolsey are taken almost word for 
word from the chroniclers : 

He was a man 
Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking 
Himself with princes ; one that by suggestion 
Tied all the kingdom : simony was fair-play : 
His own opinion was his law : i' the presence 
He would say untruths, and be ever double 
Both in his words and meaning : he was never, 
But where he meant to ruin, pitiful : 
His promises were, as he then was, mighty ; 
But his performance, as he is now, nothing : 
Of his own body he was iU, and gave 
The clergy ill example. '^ 

After which the reminder that he was " a scholar, and a ripe 
and good one," and the founder of Christ Church, Oxford, 
falls rather flat. 

Once it was known that Wolsey had fallen and that Henry 
had broken with Rome over his divorce, a long-pent-up 
anti-clerical storm swept the House of Commons. Hall tells 
us what the main grievances were — the mortuaries or cus- 
tomary offerings payable to priests from the estates of dead 
persons, the probate dues payable to bishops, the enormous 
landed property in clerical hands, the competition of abbeys 
in the wool trade, the pluralism and non-residence of the 
clergy. " These things before this time might in no wise 
be touched nor yet talked of by no man except he would be 
made an heretic, or lose all that he had." It was for refusing 
a mortuary, as we saw, that Hun had been accused of heresy. 
The passage by the Commons of bills limiting mortuaries 
and probate dues drew from John Fisher, bishop of Rochester 
(since canonized as a saint), the famous outburst : " Now with 
the Commons is nothing but * Down with the Church,' and 
all this, meseemeth, is for lack of faith only." ^ Nothing 
could have so neatly exposed the material basis of medieval 
Cathohcism as these words of Fisher. By remitting Henry's 
debts to the city of London, the Commons procured his aid 

1 Henry VIII, Act IV, scene ii. 2 ball's Chronicle, 21 Henry VIII. 



MODERN HISTORY I9I 

in forcing their bills through the Lords. The first step in 
the Enghsh Reformation was taken. Then in 153 1 followed 
the recognition of Henry as Supreme Head of the English 
Church, in 1533 the prohibition of appeals to Rome, in 1534 
the excommunication of Henry by the Pope, in 153 5 the execu- 
tion of Fisher and More for refusing the oath of supremacy, 
and in 1536 the beginning of Henry's great revolutionary act, 
the dissolution of the monasteries and the confiscation of their 
property. 

It is usual to treat these measures as the acts of a despotic 
king, endorsed by a servile Parliament which had degenerated 
into a mere rubber-stamp for ratifying his will. This view 
is utterly unhistorical. The Lords, indeed, might fairly be 
called servile. The old nobihty had for the most part exter- 
minated one another in the Wars of the Roses; the survivors 
and the new creations depended on the king; and the 
Reformation reduced the Church to a like dependence. But 
the Commons, who provided the driving- force of the 
Reformation, represented something more than the royal 
will. They represented, not indeed the people, but the rising 
merchant class and the smaller landowners, and between them 
they provided the spearhead of the revolution which was to 
destroy feudalism and the CathoHc Church in England. 
If they supported the king, they did so in their own interest. 
They had shown independence enough in 1523, when they 
opposed Wolsey's war taxation. They should not be accused 
of servihty for supporting Henry from 1529 onwards in carry- 
ing out a pohcy which they had desired for over a hundred 
years. 

Certainly we need have no illusions about the Reformation 
Parhament. It was the Parhament of a class, and in dealing 
with the common people it showed itself class-bound. 
Nothing could be more brutal than the act of 1530 which 
threatened vagrants (reduced to vagrancy by expropriation 
from their holdings, or by the rapid rise in prices due to dis- 
coveries of silver in the New World and to Henry's debase- 
ment of the currency) with whipping at the cart's tail " until 
the blood streamed from their bodies " ; or than the act 
of 1536 which provided that " valiant beggars " should for a 



192 MODERN HISTORY 

first offence be whipped, for a second have their ears cropped, 
and for a third be hanged. We may compare the act of 
1 53 1 (passed after a bad case of poisoning and more than 
once enforced) under which poisoners were boiled aHve. 
The idea of a scientific treatment of crime, poverty, or any- 
thing else had not yet dawned. But brutal as the Reformers 
were, in breaking the power of the Catholic Church they did 
work which had to be done. We need not be sorry for the 
monasteries. In the Middle Ages they had been as fiercely 
tenacious of their feudal rights and as savage to insurgent 
peasants and burghers as any lord of the soil. The worst 
that we can say of their dissolution is that it was carried out 
by grasping men not for the people's enrichment, but for 
their own. What manner of men these were we can gather 
when we read, in Grafton's continuation of Hall, of the aboH- 
tion in 1536 of a number of Catholic hohdays, the better to 
assist the " gathering in of com, hay, fruit, and other such 
like necessary and profitable commodities";^ and when 
John Leland in 1542 tells us that Malmesbury abbey has been 
bought by " one Stump, an exceeding rich clothier," who has 
filled it with looms and " intendeth to make a street or two 
for clothiers in the back vacant grounds of the abbey." 

Our next chronicler is Richard Grafton, a London printer 
who was concerned in bringing out the Great Bible of 1539 
and the first English Prayer Book of 1549, and sat in Parlia- 
ment under Mary and Elizabeth. He completed and pub- 
lished Hall's Chronicle and later wrote one of his own, taking 
in the reigns of Edward VI and Mary. It was a dangerous 
time for public men ; and if we cannot admire, we cannot 
altogether blame the care with which Grafton kept on the 
side of the government of the day. Besides his work, we have 
the Chronicles of his junior contemporary, Raphael Holinshed, 
of whom personally much less is known, but who gives 
many details omitted by Grafton. 

The men who had shared out the loot of the abbeys were 

now firmly in the saddle without even Henry to restrain 

them. Their first act under Edward was to raid the property 

of the craft guilds by confiscating to the crown any revenues 

1 Hall's Chronicle, 28 Henry Vm. 



MODERN HISTORY 193 

devoted to religious purposes. At the same time they tried 
to deal with the vagrant problem by an act punishing vaga- 
bonds with slavery and branding, and their children with 
forced apprenticeship until the age of twenty-four. This 
act evidently proved unworkable, for it was repealed the 
following year and replaced by Henry's old prescription of 
whipping, ear-cropping, and hanging. Meanwhile en- 
closures of land for parks or pasture continued, despite repeated 
legislation and despite the denunciations of Hugh Latimer 
and the proclamations of the Protector Somerset; debase- 
ment of the currency continued to raise prices ; and labour 
combinations to raise wages or reduce hours were prohibited 
by an act of 1549. 

We need not be surprised that in that year the people, 
chastised formerly with Cathohc whips and now with 
Protestant scorpions, rose in rebelhon in many different parts 
of the country. In Cornwall, where the Celtic language was 
still spoken. Catholic squires managed to divert the move- 
ment from its social objects to a demand for the aboUtion of 
the Enghsh Prayer Book and the restoration of the old reUgion. 
They besieged Exeter, were beaten off by the Protestant 
citizens, and were fmally crushed at Clyst St. Mary by Lord 
Russell (one of the new lords who had thriven on the spoils 
of the abbeys) at the head of three thousand German mercen- 
aries. It is significant that foreigners had to be employed. 

The most formidable rising was that led by Robert Ket in 
Norfolk. By piecing together Grafton and Holinshed we 
get a very vivid picture of this revolt. It was a movement 
against enclosures, and had nothing to do with reUgion. 
The Cathohcs were weak in eastern England : in fact, when 
Stephen Gardiner, back in power under Mary, wanted to 
disparage Somerset's administration, he called it " Ket's 
government." The revolt began with the peasantry forcibly 
unfencing enclosed lands at Attleborough, Wymondham, and 
other places in Norfolk. Then Ket, a tanner and landowner 
of Wymondham, whose own fences had been thrown down, 
deserted his class and was chosen leader of the peasants. The 
sheriff proclaimed them rebels, but to no purpose. They 
marched on Norwich, and pitched their camp on Mousehold 



194 MODERN HISTORY 

Heath, where Ket administered justice under the " Oak of 
Reformation," and lawyers, with " a pair of fetters upon their 
heels, to keep them safe, when they had them, from stepping 
away," were compelled to function as counsel in the rebels* 
court.^ The " meaner sort of the citizens of Norwich " 
joined them; so, "sore against their wills," did the mayor 
and "divers honest men." "Firing of beacons and ringing 
of bells " raised the peasantry of Suffolk. Everywhere hedges 
were thrown down and commons unfenced. Matthew 
Parker, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, the future 
archbishop of Canterbury, was allowed to preach to the rebels, 
but was interrupted by a " lewd fellow " who cried : " How 
long shall we suffer this hireling doctor, who being waged 
by gentlemen is come hither with his tongue, which is sold 
and tied to serve their appetite?" Another replied to a 
summons to surrender " that he and the rest of the rebels 
were earnest defenders of the king's royal majesty, and that 
they would either restore the commonwealth from decay, 
into the which it was fallen, being oppressed through the 
covetousness and tyranny of the gentlemen ; or else would they 
like men die in the quarrel." At length, after one royal army 
had retired with loss, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, marched 
against them with a force including two thousand German 
mercenaries who had served in the west, and put them to 
flight. A bloody assize followed. Ket was " hanged in 
chains upon the top of Norwich castle, and WiUiam Ket his 
brother on the top of Wymondham steeple, in which town 
they had both dwelled." The squires' thirst for blood had 
to be restrained by Warwick, who asked them : " What 
shall we then do? Shall we hold the plough ourselves, play 
the carters, and labour the ground with our own hands? "^ 
Other local risings were soon put down. 

So ended Ket's rebeUion. Its first poUtical repercussion 
was to bring down the Protector Somerset, who had tried to 
enforce the law against enclosures. We cannot help being 
sorry for Somerset. He was ahead of his time in his popular 
sympathies, his desire for religious toleration, and his dream 

^ Grafton, Chronicle, 3 Edward VI. 
2 Holinshed, Chronicles, 3 Edward VI. 



MODERN HISTORY 195 

of an amicable union between England and Scotland ; but 
he was powerless against the hard-faced men who had done 
well out of the Reformation — the Russells, Herberts, Dud- 
leys, Wriothesleys, Pagets, and others who fattened on abbey 
lands and packed the Privy Council. That Somerset should 
even wish to do justice to the peasantry was enough to damn 
him; and he went to the Tower and then to the block — the 
only Tudor statesman to be genuinely mourned by the people. 

In the case of Warwick, at least Nemesis was swift; for in 
1553, when as Duke of Northumberland he proclaimed Lady 
Jane Grey, the men of Norfolk and Suffolk, his victims of 
four years before, rallied to Mary (not for love of her religion, 
but from hatred of the men in power) and marched with her 
on London, which received her royally. They were scurvily 
rewarded. With the sole exception of Northumberland, who 
was beyond pardon, the gang of the new rich who had 
lorded it under Edward continued to lord it under Mary. 
In 1554 a bull of Pope Julius III dispensed them from restoring 
the abbey lands. In return for this concession Lords and 
Commons knelt before Cardinal Pole for absolution from 
the sins of heresy and schism, voted the revival of the statute 
De Hceretico Comburendo, and in three years allowed nearly 
three hundred men and women to be burnt at the stake. Of 
these the largest number were Londoners, and most of the 
rest were people of those eastern counties which had done 
so much to put Mary on the throne. 

For the reign of Elizabeth, which saw the final victory 
of the Reformation, our best contemporary witnesses are 
Holinshed's Chronicles, which he brought down to 1578, 
and which other hands continued to 1587; his collaborator 
WiUiam Harrison's Description of England pubhshed in 1577; 
and our last Latin chronicler, William Camden, who wrote 
his Annals under James I. Later, but nevertheless indis- 
pensable authorities are D 'Ewes' Parliamentary journals, 
Fuller's Church History, and Strype's Annals of the Reformation 
in England, which last, though written in the eighteenth 
century, contains priceless transcripts of contemporary 
material. The modem authorities mentioned earUer are also 
useful. 



196 MODERN HISTORY 

From these sources we learn that the developments operating 
under the earlier Tudors continued on a greater scale under 
Elizabeth. She broke with Rome for the reaHstic reason 
that her title to the throne depended on it and that, as she 
told the Spanish ambassador, ** she could not let her subjects* 
money be carried out of the realm by the Pope any more/'^ 
To effect the breach she had to evict aU the bishops but one 
from their sees. The lower clergy were more compHant. 
D'Ewes puts the number of recusants at fourteen bishops and 
one hundred and seventy-seven others out of a total of nine 
thousand four hundred clergy. Strype, citing a CathoHc 
authority, puts the whole number, including bishops, at about 
two hundred and fifty ; Creighton at one hundred and ninety- 
two. The famous Vicar of Bray was evidently a common 
type. But zealous Protestantism was confined to London, 
the industrial areas, and the seaports. Catholic exiles claimed 
that more than half the nobihty and gentry, and as much as 
two-thirds of the whole population, were with them ; and 
though this, no doubt, was wishful thinking, the Reformation 
was incontestably the movement of a class. The Protestants, 
however, were reinforced by a stream of refugees flying from 
persecution in the Netherlands and France. As early as 
1560 the Spanish ambassador reported to PhiHp II that ten 
thousand immigrants from the Low Countries were in 
England. In the same year Elizabeth, who was far from 
regarding all Protestants as brethren, tried to stem the inflow 
of unwelcome visitors by ordering Anabaptists to quit the 
realm within twenty days on pain of imprisonment and 
confiscation of goods. She, hke her father, intended to halt 
the Reformation at a point convenient to herself. 

The weak point of Elizabethan, as of earher Tudor poUcy, 
was its indiflerence to the interests of the masses, whom 
conciliation might have converted into staunch supporters 
of the new order, but whom neglect often made ready instru- 
ments of Catholic counter-revolution. The enclosure of 
arable land for pasture continued to manufacture paupers. 
" Idle beggars," says Harrison, " are such either through 
other men's occasion, or through their own default. By 
^ Creighton, Queen Elizabeth, 



MODERN HISTORY I97 

Other men's occasion, when some covetous man doth find 
means to wipe many out of their occupyings, and turn the 
same into their private gains.'' Prices continued to rise 
through the importation of silver, while wages were frozen 
by Act of Parhament. " Such a price of com continueth," 
says the same writer, " that the artificer and poor labouring 
man is not able to reach unto it."^ Elizabethan England 
was no doubt merry enough for the newly ennobled rich, 
who took shares in Hawkins' slave-trading ventures and drew 
dividends sometimes of sixty per cent. But for most EngUsh- 
men it was anything but a merry world. 

It is no wonder that, in the closely-fought struggle between 
the old order and the new, high-handed methods were used 
to turn the scale. In 1569, when the north of England (still 
feudal and Cathohc) rose under the Earls of Northumberland 
and Westmorland against Elizabeth's counsellors, the Privy 
Council forestalled the rebeUion by rounding up " thirteen 
thousand masterless men " who might otherwise have 
joined its forces.^ This ensured its speedy collapse. In- 
surrections in Suffolk and Norfolk " against the multitude 
of strangers and foreign artificers " who were displacing 
native labour were stifled by the same means. There 
followed in 1570 the bull of Pius V excommunicating 
and deposing Elizabeth, " the pretended queen of England, 
with whom the worst enemies of mankind have found asylum," 
and who had ousted the old nobihty of England from her 
Council and " filled it with low-bom heretics " — such men 
as Wilham Cecil, a yeoman's grandson, soon to be Lord 
Burghley, to whom " gentiUty," in his own phrase, was 
" nothing but ancient riches." ^ Elizabeth and Cecil replied 
to Pius by a poUcy of terror, of which Catholics were not the 
only victims. Their hand lay heavy on " sturdy beggars " 
(many of them disbanded retainers of the northern earls and 
potential recruits to a rebel army), whom Parliament in 1572 
ordered for a first offence to be " apprehended, whipped, and 
burned through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron 
of one inch compass," for a second to be adjudged felons, 

^ Harrison, Description of England. 

^ Strype, Annals of the Reformation in England. ^ Ibid. 



198 MODERN HISTORY 

and for a third to be hanged.^ It lay heavy, too, on Anabap- 
tists and other advanced sects, against whom from 1575 
onward, despite John Foxe's plea for mercy, the stake and 
faggot were revived. 

These facts do not discredit the Reformation. On the 
contrary, they show how much greater was the Reformation 
as a movement than any of the hmited, and often blind and 
brutal rulers who carried it out. However much Henry, 
Ehzabeth, or their continental contemporaries might wish 
to arrest it, the mass movement surged forward. The Ana- 
baptists carried the Protestant Reformation to lengths incon- 
venient to princes, courtiers, and courtly divines, but agreeable 
to peasants and artisans whose life was almost equally hard 
under the old feudalism and the new capitalism. They varied 
among themselves on points of doctrine. Carrying private 
interpretation of the Bible to its logical limits, some denied 
the Trinity, others the Incarnation; others preached and 
practised community of goods. But all agreed that existing 
governments were unchristian and that Christians could not 
lawfully serve them as magistrates or soldiers, or take oaths 
in their courts ; and all rejected infant baptism as unscriptural. 
Except for the attempt (provoked by years of cruel perse- 
cution) to set up the kingdom of heaven by force at Miinster 
in 1535 the Anabaptist attitude to the State was completely 
negative. Anabaptists first reached England from Holland 
under Henry VIII, who sent many of them to the stake. In 
spite of proclamations, they continued to percolate into the 
country under Elizabeth. In 1575 " two Dutchmen Ana- 
baptists were burned in Smithfield, who died in great horror 
with roaring and crying." ^ Anabaptism is important chiefly 
as a stepping-stone to Freethought. In the middle years of 
the sixteenth century a mercer, Hendrik Niclaes, who had 
been mixed up in the Miinster revolt, founded at Emden a 
sect known as the Family of Love, which passed from the 
private interpretation of scripture to a discreet denial of its 
authority. We are told that the Familists " attenuated all 

^ Holinshed, Chronicles, 14 Elizabeth; Cunningham, Growth of English 
Industry and Commerce, II, 49. 
2 Holinshed, Chronicles, 17 EHzabeth. 



MODERN HISTORY I99 

scriptures into allegories, and made them airy, empty 
nothing " ; ^ that some, more extreme, " questioned whether 
there were an heaven or an hell, but what is in this life," 
and "believed that all things come by nature"; that from 
1574 onward the sect numbered many *' weavers, basket- 
makers, musicians, bottle-makers, and such other like " in 
eastern England ; ^ and that they avoided persecution by 
outward conformity to the established Church. 

Not all East Anghan sectaries were so cautious or so for- 
tunate. The glories of Elizabeth's reign are dimmed by the 
martyrdom of several of these simple men who dared to think 
beyond the bounds prescribed by Tudor statecraft. In 1579, 
while Francis Drake was plundering the Spanish Main on his 
way round the globe, Matthew Hamont, a ploughwright, 
was burnt at Norwich for calling Christ " a mere man " and 
the New Testament " a mere fable." ^ In 1583, while Philip 
was beginning to think of an expedition to smoke out the 
Enghsh wasps' nest, one John Lewes was burnt at Norwich 
for heresies similar to Hamont' s, and two artisans were 
hanged at Bury St. Edmunds for circulating the tracts of 
Robert Brov^me against the right of the State to prescribe 
worship. In 1588, the year of the defeat of the Armada, 
Francis Ket, a Cambridge fellow, was burnt near Norwich 
for " divers detestable opinions against Christ our Saviour." ^ 
But repression did not quell heresy in the eastern counties, 
and their sectaries were to play a notable part in the revolution 
of the next century. 

The Tudor Reformation, while solving one problem, 
created another. The fetters of feudaUsm and Cathohcism 
were cast off, and an era of enterprise inaugurated which 
opened the oceans to Enghsh trade, and thereby paved the 
way for modem industrialism. But the price paid for this 
undoubted progress was a mass of misery which poisoned the 
body pohtic. In 1591, at the funeral of George Talbot, sixth 
Earl of Shrewsbury (husband of the redoubtable " Bess of 

^ Fuller, Church History. 
2 Strype, Annals of the Reformation in England. 
^ Continuation of Holinshed, 21 Elizabeth. 
* Strype, Annals of the Reformation in England. 



200 MODERN HISTORY 

Hardwick " and sometime gaoler of Mary Stuart), so many- 
thousands of beggars besieged Sheffield Castle for the cus- 
tomary dole that many were killed or injured in the press. 
In 1596 a Somerset magistrate, Edward Hext, wrote to 
Burghley a hair-raising report on the condition of the people 
in his county. Of particular interest is Hext's revelation of 
the sympathy of ordinary people for the outcasts. In that 
year forty " vagabonds and rogues " had been hanged in 
Somerset, thirty-five burnt in the hand, and thirty-seven 
whipped. Others, acquitted or released, were " for the most 
part desperate and wicked persons, and must of necessity hve 
by spoil. . . . For none will receive them into service. And, 
in truth, work they will not; neither can they, without 
most extreme pains, by reason their sinews are so benumbed 
and stiff through idleness, as their limbs being put to any 
hard labour, will grieve them above measure. . . . The fifth 
person that committeth a felony is not brought to trial : for 
they are grown so exceeding cunning, by their often being 
in the gaol, as the most part are never taken. If they be, 
and come into the hands of the simple man that hath lost his 
goods, he is many times content to take his goods, and let 
them slip ; because they will not be bound to give evidence at 
the assizes, to his trouble and charge. ... In which default of 
justice many wicked thieves escape. For most commonly 
the most simple country man and woman, looking no further 
than to the loss of their own goods, are of opinion that they 
would not procure any man's death for all the goods in the 
world. . . . Others there be, and, I fear me, emboldened by 
the wandering people, that stick not to say boldly. They must 
not starve, they will not starve. . . . Which may grow dangerous 
by the aid of such numbers as are abroad, especially in these 
time's of dearth : who no doubt animate them to aU contempt 
both of noblemen and gentlemen, continually buzzing into 
their ears, that the rich men have gotten all into their hands, 
and will starve the poor."^ 

Such was the condition of England when, following the 
defeat of the Armada, merchant adventurers like James 
Lancaster were rounding the Cape, challenging the Iberian 
^ Strype, ibid. 



MODERN HISTORY 201 

monopoly of commerce in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, 
and obtaining in 1600 Elizabeth's charter for the ** Company 
of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies." Tudor 
statesmen had to take notice of such social symptoms if their 
new mercantile commonwealth was not to sink under them. 
The Poor Law of 1601, which prescribed for the first time 
the levy of a compulsory poor-rate in every parish for the 
provision of work for those who could do it and reUef for 
those who could not, was an attempt, not a moment too 
early, to drain the pool of destitution which had been in- 
creasing ever since capitahst sheep-farming had begun to 
break up the feudal manor. Thus underpinned, the new 
social structure could grow without immediate danger of 
collapse. 

Let us now jump forty years and look at the next great 
epoch of change, that which opened with the meeting of 
the Long Parhament in 1640. For a general picture of this 
period Gardiner's great History, extending from the accession 
of James I down to the Commonwealth and Protectorate, is 
indispensable. It should be supplemented by Cunningham 
for economic history, Firth's Stuart Tracts and CromwelVs 
Army, and Gooch's English Democratic Ideas in the Seventeenth 
Century. 

In the first forty years of the seventeenth century the men 
who had won wealth and power under the Tudors embarked 
on new enterprises. They obtained concessions for draining 
the Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire fens, and were rewarded 
with thousands of acres of reclaimed land — much to the dis- 
content of the fenmen, who, hke the victims of Tudor en- 
closures, objected to the loss of their common rights. En- 
closure continued to be resented, and provoked riots in the 
midlands in 1607. But the high price of com attracted new 
capital into agriculture and supphed a corrective. Mean- 
while the ruling class made a beginning of oversea colonization 
by the conquest of Ireland (a ruthless process of devastation 
and massacre, which sowed a hatred that three centuries have 
not sufficed to uproot) and by the settlement of Virginia. 

But the immediate profit of such enterprises went to enrich 
a small class of monopoHsts — peers, courtiers, or rich mer- 



202 MODERN HISTORY 

chantS' — who obtained patents from the crown, and were 
by no means popular with lesser landowners and traders or 
with the nation generally. Depending as they did on the 
royal prerogative, the monopohsts favoured an absolute 
monarchy propped by a subservient Church, while the middle 
classes as a whole were for a strict limitation of royal and 
episcopal power. The Tudor alliance between the monarchy 
and the middle classes had begun to weaken even before the 
death of Elizabeth. Under the opinionated James it was a 
thing of the past. Church government, trading monopohes 
in the most necessary commodities such as coal (granted, 
revoked under protest, and granted again), and arbitrary 
taxation became vexed questions on which the king and his 
bishops and placemen were ranged on one side, and the 
squires and burgesses who fdled the House of Commons on 
the other. One indirect result of the new struggle was the 
cessation of burnings for heresy. The last execution of a 
heretic (Edward Wightman at Lichfield in 1612 for " blas- 
phem^ies against the Trinity ") provoked such a riot as to put 
the fear of the people into James and his bishops ; and they 
never attempted the like again. A people whose fathers had 
seen the fires of Smithfield brooked ill James' leaning to an 
alliance with Popish Spain and his son Charles' marriage with 
a French Catholic princess. " The City," wrote the courtier 
and monopolist. Sir George Goring, "is so infested by the 
malignant part of this kingdom, as no man that is moneyed 
will lend upon any security, if they think it to go the way 
of the court." ^ The quarrel was embittered by Charles' 
attempt for eleven years to govern and levy taxes without a 
Parliament — as his brother-in-law, Louis XIII, was already 
doing with the help of Richelieu in France. By 1640, when 
bankruptcy forced Charles to call a Parliament, the great issue 
was who was to be master in the State, the king and his 
court, or Parliament and its electors — who, though not 
representative of the people, at least constituted a bigger 
class than the court and the monopohsts. 

Let us now see how it struck contemporaries. Our first 
witness shall be Edward Hyde, barrister-at-law and member 
^ Gardiner, History of England, chap. LX. 



MODERN HISTORY 203 

of Parliament, counsellor to Charles I and Charles II during 
years of civil war and exile, and in later life Lord Chancellor, 
Earl of Clarendon, and author of the History of the Rebellion. 
We do not expect impartiality from anyone so involved on 
the royal side as Clarendon. Nevertheless he should be read, 
and not only for his style. It is just his partisanship v^hich 
makes his v^ork live. His limitations are those of a learned, 
but narrow member of the ruling class of Stuart England. 
If he fails to understand the great revolutionary struggle of 
which he writes, and if posterity has reversed his verdict on 
many issues, that is the common lot of losing sides. We can 
at least use his testimony to refute the romantic rubbish 
written by modem admirers of the Stuarts who understand 
even less than he what it was aU about. 

Clarendon, for example, lends no support to the view that 
Charles was a popular monarch trying to protect his people 
from a gang of rich rascals who wanted to steal the common 
lands. Read his story of the enclosure of Richmond Park in 
1636. 

" The King . . . had a great desire to make a great 
park for red as well as fallow deer between Richmond 
and Hampton Court, where he had large wastes of his 
own and great parcels of wood . . . : but as some parishes 
had common in those wastes, so many gentlemen and 
farmers had good houses and good farms intermingled 
. . . ; and without taking in of them into the park, it 
would not be of the largeness or for the use proposed. 
His Majesty desired to purchase those lands, and was very 
willing to buy them upon higher terms than the people 
could sell them at to anybody else . . . ; and so he em- 
ployed his own surveyor and other of his officers to 
treat with the owners. . . . The major part of the people 
were in a short time prevailed with, but many very 
obstinately refused ; . . . and the King being as earnest to 
compass it, it made a great noise, as if the King would 
take away men's estates at his own pleasure.*' 

Archbishop Laud, Juxon, bishop of London, and Lord 
Cottington, Chancellor of the Exchequer, tried to dissuade 



204 MODERN HISTORY 

Charles from his impohtic design, till Charles " grew very- 
angry " with Cottington " and told him he was resolved 
to go through with it, and had already caused brick to be 
burned, and much of the wall to be built upon his own land, 
upon which Cottington thought fit to acquiesce. The 
building the wall before people consented to part with their 
land or their common looked to them as if by degrees they 
should be shut out from both, and increased the murmur and 
noise of the people who were not concerned as well as of them 
who were, and it was too near London not to be the common 
discourse." ^ Did Naboth's vineyard afford a favourite text 
that year to Puritan preachers who could elude the vigilance 
of Laud? 

Clarendon brings out the intimate connection between the 
pohcy of the Long Parliament and the interests of the City 
of London. The citizens would lend no more money to 
Charles, but they would lend to Parliament, provided they 
were assured that Parliament would not be suddenly dissolved 
and their money lost. This was made clear in 164 1 during the 
debates on the impeachment and attainder of Strafford — the 
first revolutionary act of the Long Parliament. Strafford had 
tried to be an English Richelieu. Between him and the 
Parliamentary leaders there could be no truce : it was his hfe 
or theirs. London knew it. During the proceedings against 
Strafford Westminster and Whitehall were beset by mobs 
of sober citizens demanding the Earl's head as a guarantee of 
freedom. The City made any further loan conditional on 
the passage of an Act prohibiting the adjournment, pro- 
rogation, or dissolution of the existing Parhament without its 
own consent. " Which," says Clarendon, " was within a 
short time (less than an hour) brought into the House, and 
immediately twice read and committed (an expedition never 
before heard of in Parliament) and the next day, with . . . the 
contradiction of very few voices, engrossed and carried up to 
the Lords." According to Gardiner, Hyde, who at that 
date was not yet committed to the king's cause, himself voted 
for the bill. Perhaps not unnaturally Clarendon says nothing 
about this. After a show of resistance, *' the Lords, in that 
^ Clarendon, History of the Rebellion, I, 208-210. 



MODERN HISTORY 205 

hurry of noise and confusion when the people were abroad, 
kindly consented likewise to it : and so, . . . in the agony of 
the other despatch, the king was induced to include that bill 
in the commission with the Act of Attainder, and so they 
were both passed together." ^ 

Clarendon shows a candour about the class character of the 
Enghsh Revolution which succeeding historians have not 
always emulated. Parhament, he says, was " followed and 
submitted to principally by the meanest of the people. And 
though some persons of quahty and estates . . . followed their 
party, yet the number of them was not great." ^ This, of 
course, does not mean that the Roundheads were a party of 
peasants or workers. To Clarendon, coming from a landed 
family and bred to the genteel profession of the law, the 
category "mean" included all walks of life below his own 
— all that we denote by the term " middle class." He de- 
scribes as " horrible " a petition addressed to the House of 
Commons early in 1642 by " many thousands of poor people 
in and about the City of London," praying that Lords and 
Commons should " sit and vote as one entire body." ^ This 
would have made short work of the Lords' veto. Indeed, 
shortly before the London petition Pym had carried a motion 
that the Commons, " being the representative body of the 
whole kingdom, and their Lordships being but as particular 
persons," might if necessary override the Upper House. 
Clarendon tells us that by the beginning of the Civil War 
" there was not left a fifth part of the House of Peers at West- 
minster, and ... I do not beheve that there was near a moiety 
of the House of Commons." ^ Later, in 1644, we learn 
that of eighty-five peers sixty-three were with Charles or in 
his service, and only twenty-two in London. Of a Lower 
House of some four hundred only one hundred and eighteen 
were with the king. In Yorkshire, we are told, " there were 
very few gentlemen, or men of any quality, . . . who were 
actively or factiously disaffected to His Majesty; and of those 
the Lord Fairfax, and his son, Sir Thomas Fairfax, were the 
chief, who were governed by two or three of inferior quality, 

^ Clarendon, History of the Rebellion, III, 210. ^ Clarendon, Life. 

3 History of the Rebellion, IV, 267, 269. * Ibid., V, 333. 



206 MODERN HISTORY 

more conversant with the people, who were as well known 
as they." ^ But " Leeds, Hahfax, and Bradford, three very- 
populous and rich towns (which depending wholly upon 
clothiers naturally maligned the gentry) were wholly at 
[Parliament's] disposition." ^ In Somerset, " though the 
gentlemen of ancient famihes and estates . . . were for the 
most part well affected to the King . . . yet there were a people 
of an inferior degree, who, by good husbandry, clothing, and 
other thriving arts, had gotten very great fortunes, and by 
degrees getting themselves into the gentlemen's estates, were 
angry that they found not themselves in the same esteem and 
reputation with those whose estates they had; and therefore, 
with more industry than the other, studied all ways to make 
themselves considerable. These from the beginning were 
fast friends to the Parliament, and many of them were now 
entrusted by them as deputy-Heutenants in their new ordi- 
nance of the militia." ^ In general, " the common people 
. . . were in all places grown to that barbarity and rage against 
the nobility and gentry (under the style of Cavaliers) that it 
was not safe for any to live at their houses who were taken 
notice of as no votaries to the Parliament. . . . The poorest 
and lowest of the people became informers against the richest 
and most substantial. . . . They further appointed that the 
fines, rents, and profits of archbishops, bishops, deans, and 
chapters, and of all delinquents who had taken up arms against 
the Parhament . . . should be sequestered for the use and 
benefit of the commonwealth." * 

In short, the picture of the English Revolution painted by 
Clarendon is a great deal more like the later French Revolu- 
tion than is suspected by those to whom Enghsh history is 
one long tale of " freedom slowly broadening down from 
precedent to precedent." Clarendon is confirmed by a wimess 
from the other side. Sir Simonds D'Ewes, a Suffolk squire 

^ History of the Rebeiliion, V, 446. Fairfax explains what Clarendon here 
leaves obscure. The Commission of Array sent to levy forces for the king 
in Yorkshire, says he, " exceeded their commission by oppressing many 
honest people, whom they called Roundheads. . . . Many were forced 
to come and entreat [my father] to join with them in defence of themselves 
and country." Cited by Firth, Stuart Tracts. 

2 Ibid., VI, 261. 3 jbid^ ^ 4 ibij,^ 36^ ^^ 



MA 



\ 



MODERN HISTORY 207 

and antiquarian, who sat for Sudbury in the Long Parhament 
and with some misgiving threw in his lot with the Puritans. 
" Great was the calamity everywhere," he writes in his diary, 
*' of those counties in which Plis Majesty's forces or ours 
came, neither side abstaining from rapine and pillage; and 
besides, the rude multitude in divers counties took advantage 
of those civil and intestine broils to plunder and pillage the 
houses of the nobility, gentry, and others, who were either 
knov^Ti Papists, or being Protestants, had sent or provided 
horses, money, or plate to send to the King, or such as being 
rich they would make malignants." ^ " The whole land was 
in confusion," he told the House late in 1642. " No man 
would pay his rent. As the House had passed an ordinance 
to tax the subjects, it would be well to pass another to compel 
tenants to pay their rents. ... It would soon be a crime to 
be rich." ^ 

The Long Parliament in fact had raised forces which it 
could not control. The city merchants and their friends at 
Westminster could vote resolutions against Charles, but they 
could enforce their resolutions only by arming and drilling 
common men whose interests were by no means identical 
with theirs. The Grand Remonstrance of 1641, in which 
the Lower House stated their case to the nation, had com- 
plained, among other things, of the appropriation of " large 
quantities of common and several grounds " without the 
owners' consent, under colour of improvement. On the 
outbreak of civil war the fenmen of Hatfield Chase, York- 
shire, had taken the Commons at their word and re-flooded 
the fens. As the struggle went on, this cleavage of interests 
became more acute. The minority of peers who took the 
Parhamentary side (such men as the half-hearted Edward 
Montagu, Earl of Manchester, and his like), and the richer 
members of the House of Commons, already alarmed by the 
no-rent campaign in many counties, saw with dismay the 
promotion from the ranks of Cromwell's " plain, russet- 
coated captains, who knew what they fought for and loved 
what they knew," and who assuredly did not fight to make 

^ Cited by Gardiner, History of the Great Civil Wary chap. I. 
2 Ibid., chap. IV. 



208 MODERN HISTORY 

England safe for the nobility and gentry. The upshot was 
the creation in 1645 of the well-paid and well-disciplined 
New Model army with Cromwell's East Anglian cavalry as 
its nucleus. Many grandfathers or great-grandfathers of the 
men of the New Model must have been out with Ket in 1549. 
It needed only the defeat of the king to bring the quarrel 
to a head. On May 5, 1646, the day when Charles surrendered 
to the Scots at Newark, over two thousand people of Hert- 
fordshire and Buckinghamshire petitioned the House of 
Commons for the abolition of tithes. They found no sup- 
porter. Those who wanted to be quit of tithes, said some 
members, would soon want to be quit of rent — a dismal 
prospect for a House in which squires predominated, and in 
which many were waxing fat on the confiscated estates of 
Cavalier magnates. A month later John Lilburne, sum- 
moned to the bar of the House of Lords for speaking ill of 
Manchester, denied that " peers, merely made by prerogative, 
and never entrusted or empowered by the Commons of Eng- 
land," could sit in judgment on a commoner.^ " What 
were the lords of England," asked the men of the New Model, 
" but Wilham the Conqueror's colonels, or the barons but 
his majors, or the knights but his captains? " ^ Democracy, 
dead since ancient Greece, was reborn in Puritan England. 

Clarendon, who left England in 1646 and did not return 
till 1660, is not a good authority on events which took place 
in his absence and which he sees with the warped vision of 
an emigre. Exiled in Jersey, Paris, the Hague, Madrid, Cologne, 
or Bruges, he receives bitter news of " common soldiers, as 
well as the officers," nay " women as well as men," preaching 
to the people in " all churches "; of his royal master carried 
off by Comet Joyce, " one of the agitators in the army, a 
tailor," and others who indeed (more tolerant than the Parlia- 
ment) allow him to have such chaplains as he wishes, but will 
soon clamour for his trial as a " tyrant, traitor, and mur- 
derer " ; of " great numbers of the lowest and most inferior 
people " flocking to Parliament " with petitions with reference 
to religion and to the civil government"; of "liberty of 

^ Gardiner, op. cit., chap. XLII. 

^ Reliquiae Baxteriance, cited ibid., chap. XXXV. 



■1 



MODERN HISTORY 209 

conscience" becoming "the great charter"; of "Ana- 
baptists and Quakers" growing "very numerous"; and of 
" the nobihty and gentry . . . totally neglected, and the most 
inferior people preferred to all places of trust and profit." ^ 

For a close-up view of Clarendon's nightmare we must 
go to the State Papers of John Thurloe, Secretary to the 
Council of State and to Cromwell; to the diary of John 
Evelyn ; to the early part of Burnet's History of His Own 
Time; and to other contemporary papers preserved by 
Gardiner, Firth, and Gooch. Invaluable, for example, are 
Fairfax's Short Memorials of Some Things to be Cleared during 
my Command in the Army (written after the Restoration and 
included in Firth's Stuart Tracts). Fairfax was a first-rate 
soldier, but no politician. His wife was a Royalist, and his 
position difficult. He had taken up arms in sympathy with 
the " honest people " of the West Riding oppressed by the 
king's commissioners, rather than with any understanding of 
the wider issues at stake. When in 1647 the army under his 
command transform, ed itself into a poUtical party, it was 
plainly too much for Fairfax. The men's petition to Parlia- 
ment for their arrears of pay (amounting to ^331,000), 
and for pensions for widows and orphans of the fallen, was 
just, and seemed so to him. Until those demands were met, 
the men would neither disband nor go to Ireland, of which 
they had the option. But they put forward their demands 
in a way more suggestive of a trade union than an army ; 
and that Fairfax did not like. In March the House of Com- 
mons made his position impossible by rejecting the petition 
and voting its promoters enemies of the State. From that 
time on the army took the bit between its teeth. The matter 
of arrears and pensions became mixed up with demands for 
abohtion of the king's and Lords' vetos, liberty of conscience, 
dissolution of trading monopolies, law reform, and separation 
of Church and State. 

The story of the movement is told in the contemporary 

Clarke Papers, freely quoted by Firth. In April, after their 

rebuff by Parhament, delegates of horse and foot regiments 

(the famous " agitators ") again approach Parliament through 

^ History of the Rebellion, X, 79, 90, 106, 175 ; XI, i. 



210 MODERN HISTORY 

their generals. At the same time, we know from Gardiner, 
overtures are made to the beaten king. In vain ParUament 
again in May orders the army to disband. Fairfax fmds it 
beyond his power to restrain the men. Cromwell, more 
wily, swims with the stream in order to control it, and sends 
Joyce to secure Charles. For a short time the army acts as 
a unit. In June officers and men together register a " solemn 
engagement " not to disband until they obtain satisfaction 
for the past and security for the future. Parliamentary emis- 
saries offering payment of ^^ 10,000 on account are met with 
cries of ''Justice, justice ! '* Security is to be obtained by the 
dissolution of the Long Parliament (which had too well 
deserved its name) and the election of a more representative 
House for a fixed term. But on the nature of that security 
and that representation the army fatally splits. All are 
agreed on an extension of the franchise, a redistribution 
of seats, biennial Parliaments, and a measure of rehgious 
toleration. (Clarendon considers even this " ruinous to the 
Church and destructive to the regal power.") But whereas 
the " agitators " and some of the officers, influenced by 
Lilbume arid other democrats outside, would have manhood 
suffrage (Cavaher " dehnquents " only excluded), the aboU- 
tion of the monarchy and the House of Lords, and the recog- 
nition of absolute freedom of conscience as a " native right '* 
of all Englishmen, Cromwell, Ireton, and most of the officers 
would limit the vote to landowners and " those in corpora- 
tions in whom all trading hes," would exclude Cathohcs 
from unconditional toleration, and are prepared to keep 
Charles if he will only accept their terms. The thing is 
debated. Colonel Rainborough pleads that " the poorest 
he that is in England hath a life to live as well as the greatest 
he"; and Ireton replies that "godliness and honesty and 
peace " are more important than " birthright." So it goes on. 
Meanwhile Charles tries to play off his enemies one against 
another. Nothing will induce him to agree to liberty of 
conscience. " Rehgion," he writes, " is the only firm 
foundation of all power ; for when was there ever obedience 
where religion did not teach it?" But with typical Stuart 
kingcraft he is ready to use the quarrel of ParUament and army 



MODERN HISTORY 211 

to master and destroy both. In this he is favoured by what 
we can only call the amazing forbearance of his captors. 
Although a prisoner, he is not closely confined ; he is allowed 
to give audiences, and has no difficulty in negotiating with 
the Scots lords for an invasion of England and the suppression 
of *' blasphemy, heresy, and schism." By November some 
of the army, like Thomas Harrison, are alive to the game 
and calling for his trial as " a man of blood." In the middle 
of their debates he escapes from Hampton Court and makes 
for the coast, and although soon again a prisoner at Caris- 
brooke, is still so loosely guarded that he is able in December 
to conclude and sign his " engagement " with the Scots for 
a new civil war. 

The New Model has to pull itself together. We need not 
wonder that Cromwell's resort to martial law to suppress 
the Levellers meets with temporary acquiescence, that even 
Rainborough submits, that even Lilburne rallies to the 
common cause. Nor need we wonder that in 1648, as they 
go to meet the Scots, officers and men are in regicidal mood ; 
that on returning victorious (but poorer by the loss of Rain- 
borough and other comrades) they demand of Parliament 
not only constitutional reform, but justice on Charles and 
an end of hereditary monarchy ; and that when Parliament 
temporizes, the answer is Pride's Purge, the abolition of the 
House of Lords and the monarchy, and the axe and block 
before the Banqueting House in Whitehall on January 30, 

1649. 

That year 1649 was a year of ferment. Before the king's 
head falls, the fatal rift between the army council and the 
Levellers reopens. The Levellers stick out for manhood 
suffrage and absolute liberty of conscience ; the " grandees," 
as Cromwell and his friends are called, boggle at both. In 
February Lilburne and others, in a manifesto entitled England's 
New Chains Discovered, go farther than they have yet gone, 
demanding annual Parliaments, abolition of tithes, law 
reform, full rehgious liberty, and work or a comfortable 
maintenance for the poor and impotent. The Council of 
State ask John Milton to reply to the Levellers : he refuses. 
" You must break these men," Cromwell tells the Council, 



212 MODERN HISTORY 

"or they will break you"; and in March they commit 
Lilbume to the Tower on a charge of treason. Petitions in 
his favour pour into the House of Commons, one from 
London, one from Essex, one signed wholly by " well- 
affected women " — whom the House tells to go home and 
wash dishes. In April orders to certain regiments to proceed 
to Ireland lead to a mutiny in London and to the shooting of 
its leader, Robert Lockyer. He tells the court that "God 
will make his blood speak liberty to all England." Thousands 
follow his funeral. Meanwhile news comes that other 
Levellers are digging and sowing common land at St. George's 
Hill, Surrey. They turn out to be no more than twenty. 
Their leaders, Gerrard Winstanley and Wilham Everard, 
when brought before the Council of State, refuse to bare 
the head to Fairfax, saying that he is but their fellow-creature, 
and that God is about to restore to the people the freedom to 
enjoy the fruits of the earth, which was lost by the coming 
of the Conqueror six centuries ago. In a pamphlet pubhshed 
soon afterwards they denounce landed property as theft and 
call on the landlords to " let Israel go free " and *' make the 
earth a common treasury." In May another mutiny in the 
army is suppressed at Burford in Oxfordshire, where a comet 
and two corporals are shot. During the summer Lilbume 
in the Tower, while disclaiming sympathy with the " Diggers," 
continues writing pamphlets against Cromwell and inciting 
the army to rise ; and in September there is another abortive 
rising at Oxford. Lilbume is prosecuted for treason, but in 
October is acquitted by a London jury, the verdict being 
greeted by " loud and unanimous " shouts lasting half an 
hour. 

Meanwhile Cromwell has taken his army to Ireland, 
and so removed it from all temptation to make trouble in 
England. Drogheda and Wexford are a tale of horror. 
According to the estimate of William Petty, who served as 
physician in the English army, one-third of the Irish " perished 
by the sword, plague, famine, hardship and banishment " in 
this war of reconquest. In November the Diggers are ousted 
from St. George's HiU by the mihtary^ — Winstanley indig- 
nantly telling Parhament that it has betrayed the people who 



MODERN HISTORY 213 

ventured their blood in the quarrel with the king. " At this 
very day poor people are forced to work for 4d a day, and 
com is dear. . . . You jeer at the name of Leveller. I tell 
you Jesus Christ is the head Leveller." ^ 

The Levellers remained a numerous party; but that year 
of shipwreck ended their chance of achieving anything. 
Lilbume continued to attack what he believed to be corrup- 
tion in high places, and in 1652 was banished by the Rump 
Parhament. In the same year Winstanley published his 
Law of Freedom, which may be considered the earliest English 
Socialist manifesto, advocating as it does co-operative pro- 
duction, universal education, and the separation of Church 
and State. With the defeat of the Levellers the life went out 
of the Enghsh Commonwealth. It degenerated into some- 
thing very like a racket in the interest of members of the 
Rump, who trafficked in confiscated Cavalier estates, hun- 
dreds of which were seized after the battle of Worcester and 
sold to meet the cost of the Dutch war. So greedy were 
they of the sweets of power that they refused to dissolve on 
any terms until in 1653 Cromwell himself grew sick of them, 
marched his musketeers to Westminster, and " put an end to 
their prating." For a moment the hopes of the Levellers 
revived. Lilbume returned to England, prepared for recon- 
cihation with Cromwell, but was at once arrested and again 
tried for his hfe. It was his last hour of glory. Multitudes 
in London and the adjacent counties petitioned for his release. 
Cromwell kept three regiments under arms to prevent a 
rescue; and when " freebom John" was again acquitted, 
the very soldiers shouted and sounded their trumpets. But 
Cromwell dared not release him. He was detained in suc- 
cessive prisons without trial until, becoming a Quaker, he 
renounced politics and was set free. Both Lilbume and 
Winstanley died in the Society of Friends. 

I'he last years of Cromwell's life were spent in vain attempts 
to give a semblance of regularity to the absolute power 
which he was forced to assume. By killing the king, against 
his instincts and to content his army, he had estranged the 

^ Winstanley, A New Years Gift for the Parliament and Army, cited by 
Gooch, English Democratic Ideas in the Seventeenth Century, chap. VII. 



214 MODERN HISTORY 

landowning class to which he belonged, and by crushing die 
Levellers he had estranged the common people, including 
many of his own soldiers. He could count on no one except 
those officers whom he had promoted and enriched with 
land in England, Scotland, or Ireland. Even they followed 
him with less enthusiasm and more jealousy as his power 
increased. He must find a broader basis for his rule; but 
where? In the Instrument of Government, which set up 
the Protectorate, he tried (as his son-in-law Ireton, whom he 
had lost in Ireland, would have advised him to do) to vest 
power in the middle classes, excluding from the franchise 
on the one hand active Cavaliers and Catholics and on the 
other hand persons with less than ;£200 in property. He 
tried to make Parliament more representative of the middle 
class as a whole by disfranchising small boroughs which had 
decayed to the point of rottenness and giving more members 
to counties and growing towns — a measure which even the 
hostile Clarendon finds worthy of commendation. The 
result was a House in which the landed class had less, and 
the trading class more, influence than ever before in the 
history of Parliament, or than they ever would again until 
the Reform Act of 1832. But Cromwell's position was no 
easier for that. The Levellers and republicans, who still had 
support in the army, petitioned and plotted ; and the men of 
property, terrified of the Levellers, did not feel really safe 
without a king. Cromwell was more concerned to pro- 
pitiate these last than the men whom he had led in the Civil 
War. Under the Protectorate profitable enterprise went 
ahead. The draining of the fens was completed (many square 
miles of reclaimed land going to Cromwell's immediate 
circle) and the monopoly of the East India Company was 
protected against interlopers. In 1657, on the motion of 
Christopher Packe, " one of the most wealthy aldermen of 
the city of London," ^ the House petitioned Cromwell to 
assume the crown. Counter-petitioned by his officers, he 
refused the name, but accepted the reality in the shape of 
power to create peers and to nominate his successor. Down 
to his death in 1658 he had more to fear from disaffected 
^ Clarendon, History of the Rebellion, XV, 41. 



MODERN HISTORY 215 

artisans and Fifth Monarchy Men (determined *' to have the 
Protector suffer at Whitehall Gate as the late king did, because 
that the Protector had a hand in putting the king to death, 
and now acteth the same things that the king did " ^) than 
from the disarmed and impoverished Cavaliers who on what 
was left of their estates waited, without much hope, for better 
times. 

Within a few months of Ohver's death the army, now 
again mihtantly republican, dashed the Protectorate from the 
hands of the insignificant Richard Cromwell and sent Lords 
and Commons about their business. But on how to replace 
them there was the same fatal cleavage between higher and 
lower ranks in 1659 as in 1647. Finally they recalled the 
Rump, not from any love of that body, but because they 
could agree on nothing else. That made the Restoration 
only a matter of time. While Oliver's son-in-law Fleetwood 
and his colleague Lambert fumbled for power which they 
knew not how to wield. Monk, who seems to have been 
preparing for years for this situation, marched on London 
with an army carefuUy purged of republican enthusiasts. He 
was welcomed by the gentry and trading classes everywhere, 
and met no opposition. The Commonwealth had given 
its soldiers nothing to defend : they said they would " not 
fight, but make a ring for their officers to fight in." ^ Monk's 
entry into London, the annulment of all acts of the Rump, 
the election of a new Parliament on the old franchise, and 
the recall of Charles II followed as a matter of course. 

For events from the Restoration to the Revolution of 
1688 the best modem authority is G. N. Clark's Later Stuarts. 
Cunningham, as usual, is good on the economic side. 
Macaulay's History of England may be read with pleasure and 
profit, but is an inadequate guide unless checked by other 
sources. Arthur Bryant's Letters of King Charles II and other 
works may please those who desire a Tory counterbalance 
to Macaulay's Whiggery. For a contemporary picture of 
the period the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys and Burnet's 
History of His Own Time are all indispensable. 

^ Report of a spy in Thurloe's State Papers, March 17, 1656. 
^ Clarke Papers, cited by Firth, CromwelVs Army. 



2l6 MODERN HISTORY 

When Charles II entered London on May 29, 1660, the 
pious Evelyn *' blessed God . . . for such a Restoration " as 
" was never mentioned in any history ancient or modern, 
since the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity/'^ 
But there were things which could never be restored. Charles 
owed his return not to the valour of the Cavaliers, but to the 
opportunism of some Cromwellian leaders and the divisions 
of the rest. He came back at the price of a promise, made 
to Parhament and the city of London in the Declaration of 
Breda, that the questions of the disposal of estates which 
had changed hands during the interregnum, of an amnesty 
for offenders, and of a rehgious settlement should be left 
entirely to Parliament. The Parliament convened by Monk 
handled these matters in a spirit of compromise. The Act 
of Indemnity and Oblivion passed that summer restored 
crown lands. Church lands, and those confiscated from their 
owners, but not those which their owners had sold to pay 
Commonwealth taxes. So many Cromwellian purchasers 
thus remained in possession of their gains that disappointed 
Cavaliers dubbed the Act one of indemnity for the king's 
enemies and of oblivion for his friends. The only persons 
excepted from the indemnity were those who had sat in 
judgment on Charles I or been otherwise concerned in his 
execution. They had dared to lay hands on a king, and had 
failed so to rally the masses as to crown their daring with 
success. Of those who failed to escape abroad, ten were 
hanged, drawn, and quartered late in 1660 — the genial Pepys 
going " to see the first blood shed in revenge for the King at 
Charing Cross," and recording the sight in his diary. ^ Three 
were kidnapped in Holland and brought to London for execu- 
tion in 1662. *' They all looked very cheerful," says Pepys; 
" but I hear they all die defending what they did to the King 
to be just; which is very strange."^ Strange to Pepys; 
not so strange to us. Twenty-five were imprisoned for life. 
In some important matters Parliament adopted policies 
initiated by the Commonwealth : for example an embargo 
on the export of wool, imposed in 1648 in the interest of the 

^ Evelyn's Diary. ^ Pepys' Diary, October 13, 1660. 

^ Ibid., April 19, 1662. 



MODERN HISTORY 217 

textile industry, was perpetuated in 1660; and the Navigation 
Act, passed in 165 1 to foster English shippiag, was confirmed 
and strengthened in 1661. 

But compromise by no means suited the CavaUers, who 
romped into Parhament on the tide of reaction in 1661. 
They had twenty years of defeat, impoverishment, and 
humihation to avenge, and hastened to make hay while the 
sun shone. To this end they passed at once an act excluding 
from borough corporations (which elected a majority of 
members of Parhament) all who would not renounce the 
use of force against the king, another in 1662 depriving of 
their hvings all clergy who would not use the authorized 
Prayer Book, and (these measures having led to an insurrec- 
tion in the Puritan West Riding) two further acts in 1664 
and 1665 forbidding the expelled clergy to conduct services 
anywhere or to live within five miles of a corporate town. 

This pohcy of repression, as well as the disgraceful and 
disastrous war with Holland (undertaken to oust the Dutch 
from the African slave trade, in which Charles and his brother 
James were fmancially interested), led to a reaction against 
the court which we may trace in the pages of Evelyn and 
Pepys, king's men though they were. Already in 1661 
Pepys fmds *' the Clergy so high that all people that I meet 
do protest against their practice."^ In 1662 " the discontent 
is great," ^ and strong guards are posted in the City to prevent 
riots over the ejection of Puritan clergy.^ In 1666, after the 
Dutch war, the Cavaher majority begins to crumble : the 
slogans at by-elections are " No courtier " and " No Court 
pimp." ^ By 1667 Pepys' circle are talking what in 1660 
they would have voted treason. 

" At dinner we talked much of Cromwell; aU saying 
he was a brave fellow, and did owe his crown he got to 
himself as much as any man that ever got one." ^ 

"It is strange how everybody do nowadays reflect 
upon Ohver, and commend him, what brave things he 

^ Pepys' Diary, August 31, 1661. ^ ji^jj^ August 15, 1662. 

^ Evelyn, August 20, 1662. ^ Pepys, October 21, 1666. 

^ Ibid., February 8, 1667. 



2l8 MODERN HISTORY 

did, and made all the neighbour princes fear him; while 
here a prince, come in with all the love and prayers and 
good liking of his people, who have given greater signs 
of loyalty and willingness to serve him with their estates 
than ever was done by any people, hath lost all so soon, 
that it is a miracle what way a man could devise to lose 
so much in so Httle time." ^ 

In harrying the Puritans the Cavalier Parliament were 
barking up the wrong tree. The Cavalier way of life was 
far more threatened by an enterprise of which some of their 
own friends were among the promoters. On the neutral 
ground of the Royal Society (which had taken shape under 
the Commonwealth, though it derived its charter and title 
from Charles II), John Evelyn, William Petty, Robert Boyle, 
and later on Isaac Newton met periodically to investigate 
theoretical problems suggested by the practical needs of the 
society around them. The needs of navigation suggested 
problems in astronomy, optics, and mechanics ; of industry 
in physics; of trade and finance in economics ; of calculation 
in mathematics. Certain experiments on atmospheric pressure 
conducted before the Society by Boyle (at which Charles II 
" mightily laughed, for spending time only in weighing of 
air and doing nothing else since they sat " ^) paved the way 
for the invention of the steam engine and the industrial 
revolution of the next century. Meanwhile, though such 
was not the intention of Evelyn, Boyle, or Newton, the 
progress of experimental science accustomed educated men 
to take a materialistic rather than a miraculous view of natural 
processes and insensibly undermined established theology and 
the " divine right of kings," of which it was a prop. 

The new opposition which gradually grew up under 
Charles II' — the " country party " or, as they came to be 
called, the Whigs — resembled their Puritan predecessors in 
everything but piety. Like the Roundheads, they represented 
money rather than land, were suspicious of the royal pre- 
rogative, and were " heartily for the Protestant religion, and 

^ Pepys' Diary, July 12, 1667. ^ Ibid., February i, 1664. 



MODERN HISTORY 219 

for the interest of England"^ against French competition in 
industry and French influence at court. But their leading 
hghts were such men as Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of 
Shaftesbury, author of the famous mot that " all sensible men 
are of the same rehgion," which "no sensible man tells"; 
and Algernon Sidney, whom Cromwell called a " heathen " 
and Burnet a deist. As the reign proceeded, the political 
struggle crystallized into a combat between, on the one hand, 
the squires, the parsons, and the monopoHsts, organized in 
the Cavaher, court, or Tory party; and, on the other hand, 
the merchants and middle classes generally, organized in the 
country or Whig party. Since throughout the seventeenth 
century successful merchants were buying land and founding 
county famihes, the opposition of interests was not rigid : it 
was easy for opportunist politicians to pass from one camp to 
the other even two or three times in the course of a career. 
But events did not allow the line of cleavage to become blurred. 
When Charles, akeady secretly a pensioner of his cousin 
Louis XIV, committed to an unpopular French alliance and 
reconciliation with Rome, in 1672 (prompted by his Catholic 
Treasurer, Sir Thomas Clifford), repudiated his debts to the 
City of London and ruined a multitude of creditors, he did 
as much as Shaftesbury ever did to recruit the future Whig 
party and ensure its triumph. In vain did Charles try to play 
off Nonconformists against Anglicans by a Declaration of 
Indulgence. His own Cavalier Parliament replied by the 
Test Act, which forced Clifford out of office. Thenceforward 
Charles' ministers could command a majority in the Commons 
only by corruption; and in the scare over the Popish Plot 
even corruption did not avail. Finally Charles, and after 
him James II, were reduced to governing without a Parliament 
and depending on Louis for their revenue, thus involving their 
dynasty in fmal shipwreck. 

But the Revolution of 1688 was not a repetition of that of 
1640. The landed and moneyed men who carried it through 
were careful not to arm the common people. In 1685 they 
held severely aloof from Monmouth's rebellion and left the 
yeomen, artisans, and Mendip miners who followed his 
^ Bumet, History of His Own Time, Book III. 



220 MODERN HISTORY 

Standard to the tender mercies of Kirke and Jeffreys. In 1688, 
when their own time had come, when James had ahenated 
the squires and parsons, and all was ready, they called in 
Dutch William not only to replace James, but to avert the 
danger of another Commonwealth. Burnet, who accom- 
panied the expedition, relates how, when WiUiam was pre- 
paring to sail, the old Leveller John Wildman, who had 
acted with Lilbume in 1647 and was now in Holland, drafted 
a declaration indicting the arbitrary government of both 
Charles II and James II ; and how the politicians (the Earl of 
Shrewsbury, Henry Sidney, Edward Russell, and the rest) 
who had called in WiUiam urged " that the prince ought not 
to look so far back as into king Charles' reign : this would 
disgust many of the nobility and gentry, and almost all the 
clergy." William, who cared nothing for democracy in 
England or anywhere else, but much for bringing England 
sohdly into his coaUtion against Louis, agreed with them. 
" So the declaration was printed over again, with some 
amendments." After the landing at Torbay, says Burnet, 
" both the clergy and magistrates of Exeter were very fearful, 
and very backward. The bishop and dean ran away. And 
the clergy stood off, though they were sent for, and very 
gently spoke to by the prince. . . . We stayed a week at Exeter, 
before any of the gentlemen of the country about came in to 
the prince. Every day some persons of condition came from 
other parts." On the other hand, *' the rabble of the people 
came in to him in great numbers. So that he could have 
raised many regiments of foot, if there had been any occasion 
for them. . . . After he had stayed eight days at Exeter, 
Seymour ^ came in with several other gentlemen of quality 
and estate"; 2 and then more and more, until James* army 
went over in a body. So the glorious Revolution was 
effected without resort to the disagreeable necessity of raising 
another New Model. 

Transfer of power from king, court, and nobiUty, not to 
the people, but to a Parliament in which land and money in 
partnership predominated; aboHtion of some monopolies, 

^ Sir Edward Seymour, ex-Speaker of the House of Commons. 
^ Burnet, History of His Own Time, Book IV. 



MODERN HISTORY 221 

such as that of the Merchant Adventurers in the cloth trade 
with the continent, of the Eastland Company in trade with 
Russia, and of the African Company in negro slaves ; abohtion 
also of the Anghcan monopoly in rehgion; foundation of 
the Bank of England and flotation of the National Debt; full 
speed ahead for enterprise and empire : that, on the face of 
it, is the Enghsh Revolution. Reactionaries who seek to 
blacken all progress naturally make the most of its negative 
side. But in the course of the struggle it gave birth to a demo- 
cratic movement which, suppressed at the time, was to inspire 
men and women in later centuries to fight and destroy the 
corruptions and cruelties which the Revolution had allowed 
to survive. 

And now, having crossed to France with James, let us 
advance a hundred years. As Spain in the sixteenth, so France 
in the seventeenth century was the lynch-pin of European 
reaction. To Bossuet, the leading French theologian of his 
day, England was a revolutionary country rebelling against 
Almighty God, and Cromwell a moral monster. Less than 
a century after the death of Bossuet we shall find Burke, 
the leading British orator of his day, denouncing France in 
much the same terms as Bossuet had denounced England. 
Robespierre and after him Bonaparte will fill for British 
reaction the same Satanic role which French reaction had 
assigned to Cromwell. The way in which the whirligig of 
time wrought this revenge merits examination. 

Richeheu had estabhshed in France the royal autocracy which 
Laud and Strafford unsuccessfully initiated in England. But 
the French monarchy, in spite of its imposing show of abso- 
lutism, was in reality extremely inefficient. Feudal rights 
abohshed in England under the Tudors continued in France 
until the eighteenth century. Instead of the protector of the 
people against feudal oppression, the monarchy became the 
apex of a bureaucracy exploiting the people in the interest of 
a parasitic clergy and nobility. After the English Revolution 
of 1688 the crazily financed France of Louis XIV failed to 
hold its own in war against the relatively efficient England of 
WiUiam and Marlborough, and saw its colonies and com- 
merce diminish before British expansion. In the eighteenth 



222 MODERN HISTORY 

century the French bourgeoisie, chafing under a regime which 
could no longer be credited even with ordinary competence, 
swallowed with avidity the writings in which Voltaire, 
Rousseau, and the Encyclopaedists popularized for French 
consumption EngUsh science, Enghsh deism, and English 
poHtical philosophy. It needed only a series of costly and 
unprofitable wars, ending in national bankruptcy, to produce 
the crisis of 1789 and to leave the States-General, resuscitated 
at long last, masters of the situation. 

The hterature of the French Revolution is so enormous, 
and continues so to grow from year to year, that only the 
merest selection can be mentioned here. Carlyle's French 
Revolution is still the best English work on the subject. Like 
Macaulay's History of England, it is a great story greatly told 
by a historian who is not ashamed to be an enthusiast. But 
Carlyle's history was pubhshed in 1837 and on matters of 
fact needs checking by other authorities. Naturally enough, 
most of the relevant authorities are French. Mignet and 
Michelet are excellent reading, but both wrote in the first 
half of the nineteenth century — too late to have been wit- 
nesses of the events they relate, yet too early to be other than 
ardent partisans. Aulard's Histoire politique de la Revolution 
frangaise is perhaps the best history of the Revolution published 
in the present century. Other modem works will be found 
valuable in different ways. Individual biographies, such as 
Belfort Bax's and Castelnau's lives of Marat, or Hilaire 
Belloc's Danton, Robespierre, and Marie Antoinette, are worth 
reading to supplement the general history. Kropotkin's 
Great French Revolution tells the story from the point of view 
of a revolutionary Anarchist and, given his point of view, tells 
it well. Latreille's Veglise catholique et la Revolution frangaise 
states in a scholarly way the Catholic case against the Revo- 
lution. J. M. Thompson's French Revolution embodies the 
latest research on matters of fact in a form convenient to 
EngUsh readers. 

But all histories of the French Revolution suffer from a 
common disability. The events, even at a distance of one 
hundred and sixty years, are too recent and the party lines 
then drawn are too persistent for anyone to be wholly im- 



MODERN HISTORY 223 

partial. Every Frenchman is a royalist or a republican, a 
Catholic or an anti-clerical, an individualist or a Socialist. 
Even Englishmen count themselves the poHtical heirs of Pitt 
or Fox, Burke or Paine. The debate begun in the French 
Revolution continues; and as long as it continues, an im- 
partial historian v^iU be as rare as a blue moon. There is 
only one remedy, and that is to go back to contemporary 
sources. Contemporaries are biased; but at least we know 
their bias and can allow for it. That is not always so easy 
with the " impartial " modem. Contemporary sources such as 
speeches, memoirs, letters, despatches, newspapers, and police 
dossiers, if they do not give us objective history, at least show 
us history in the making. They show us events as they 
appeared, not to historians in the light of what came after, 
but to the always interested, always Umited, often fooHsh, 
and often unscrupulous actors in them. By piecing such 
material together, provided that we read it in a critical spirit, 
we can build up a more faithful picture than by blindly 
following the story in some approved textbook. Memoirs 
especially need critical reading. Not only have we to bear 
in mind the prochvity of most memoir- writers to speak well 
of their friends and ill of their enemies, but we have to remem- 
ber that memoir-writers are a select class. As Carlyle puts 
it, " it was not the Dumb Millions that suffered here; it was 
the Speaking Thousands, and Hundreds, and Units; who 
shrieked and pubhshed and made the world ring with their 
wail, as they could and should : that is the grand peculiarity." ^ 
Apart from memoirs, useful material of the above nature has 
been collected in Amic and Mouttet's Orateurs politiques, 
W. A. Schmidt's Tableaux de la Revolution frangaise, Legg and 
Wickham's Select Documents of the French Revolution, Alger's 
Paris in iy8g-i7g4, Hericault's La revolution de thermidor, and 
R. W. Postgate's Revolution : lySg to igo6. 

We may begin by comparing the French Revolution with 
its English predecessor. There are many points of resem- 
blance. In both cases national bankruptcy compelled the 
assembly of a Parliament. In both cases the Commons, 
representing the bourgeoisie as opposed to the clergy and 
^ Carlyle, French Revolution, last book, chap. VI. 



224 MODERN HISTORY 

nobility, profited by the situation to make themselves masters 
in the State. There is an obvious parallel between Pym's 
claim to override the House of Lords and Sieyes's motion that 
the Third Estate, representing ninety-six per cent of the nation, 
should act as a National Assembly and legislate without 
waiting for the privileged orders. Despite this claim, neither 
the EngUsh House of Commons nor the French National 
Assembly had any thought of democracy. This is made 
abundantly clear in the memoirs of Bailly, the elderly astrono- 
mer who sat for Paris and presided at the famous sitting of 
June 20, 1789, when the Assembly swore not to separate 
until they had given France a constitution. " The Assembly," 
he writes, " was dominated by two classes : business men 
and barristers." Later he appeals to the English precedent. 
" We represent the men capable of voHtion. . . . If the EngUsh 
. . . have adopted property as the basis of representation, it is 
because they regarded property or wealth as a sort of measure 
of intelHgence." ^ Only when the French, like the EngHsh 
before them, had to oppose force to the force wielded by the 
court did the question of democracy arise. The appeal to 
force came earlier in the French than in the EngHsh Revolu- 
tion, because the condition of the people was more desperate. 
Four-fifths of the French people, the peasantry, endured a 
grinding misery unpalliated even by a Poor Law. Paris and 
a few large towns were just beginning to be affected by the 
industrial revolution from over the Channel. Behind the 
bourgeoisie, therefore, was a hungry army of workers and 
peasants easy to mobilize in defence of the Revolution. The 
result was that Louis XVI could not follow the precedent of 
Charles I and turn the struggle into a civil war. At the first 
sign of doing so he became a prisoner in Paris, with foreign 
intervention his only hope. 

The French Revolution, Hke the English, was not at the 
outset republican. The Third Estate styled themselves His 
Majesty's " faithful commons " and asked only for Parha- 
mentary control of taxation, its equitable distribution, the 
responsibility of ministers, and the security of individual 
liberty and property. What complicated the case was the 
^ Bailly, Memoires, vol. I, pp. 51, 281. 



MODERN HISTORY 225 

bankruptcy of the country and the enormous wealth of the 
French Church. Owing to the defeat of the Huguenots in 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, France in the eigh- 
teenth had to have her Reformation and Revolution in one. 
To pay off State creditors, the Assembly confiscated and sold 
Church property just as Protestant countries had done at 
the Reformation. They reorganized Church government 
on an elective basis, just as Calvin had done in Geneva and 
Knox in Scotland, and required the clergy to swear allegiance 
to the State, just as Henry VIII and Elizabeth had done in 
England. True, they disclaimed interference with doctrine : 
so had Henry VIII. But by appropriating Church revenues 
and making the clergy into State functionaries they broke 
with Rome as effectively as if they had aboUshed the Mass 
or the confessional. Moreover, by defending the seizure of 
Church lands on the ground that pubUc utility is the supreme 
law, they set a precedent for attacks on other forms of property 
on the same ground. It might seem evident to the business 
men and barristers of the Assembly that corporate property 
and individual property were in different categories : it was 
not so evident to the land-hungry peasant or starving workman 
outside. It was open to Marat in his Ami du Peuple to ask 
whether it was worth while to have a revolution in order to 
gorge dishonest pohticians with the patrimony of the poor. 
As the Enghsh Revolution had its Levellers, so had the 
French. But until 1792 they were Uttle regarded. It was 
the intervention of foreign powers in league with the court 
against the Revolution, and the necessity of arming the people 
to repel invasion, which gave power to the Jacobins and 
brought Louis XVI from the Tuileries to the Temple, from 
the Temple to the guillotine. From that point onward the 
analogy with the Enghsh Revolution breaks down. The 
National Convention, elected by manhood suffrage to frame 
a repubhcan constitution, was a body without precedent 
in modem history. Neither the Swiss cantons, the Dutch 
Repubhc, nor the Enghsh Commonwealth, while it lasted, 
had produced anything comparable. Even the American 
States at this date had not adopted manhood suffrage. But the 
immediate task of the Convention was to win the war, which 



226 MODERN HISTORY 

with the addition of England to the coaUtion had entered a 
critical phase. To that end drastic interference with the 
rights of property was necessary. The struggle between the 
Gironde and the Mountain turned mainly on that question. 
To the Gironde the purpose of the Revolution had been to 
free private enterprise from royal and feudal shackles : that 
once done, interference even in order to win the war, let alone 
in the interest of social equality, was to betray the Revolution 
and reopen the way to tyranny. To the Mountain, on the 
other hand, the main thing was to rally the people to the 
defence of the Revolution, and for that purpose strong measures 
were necessary. " The people," says Danton, " have only 
their blood, and they are lavish with it : wretches, be as 
lavish with your wealth! " The enemy will pay later on: 
meanwhile the rich must pay, inflation must be stopped, dis- 
tress reheved, the people armed, and traitors punished. 
Robespierre in stronger terms attacks the " bourgeois aristo- 
crats who hate the sight of equahty and are frightened for their 
property," and who by opposing palliatives set the people 
against the Revolution. The upshot was the ejection of the 
Gironde from the Convention by the Paris rising of June 
1793, the delegation of power to the Committee of PubHc 
Safety, and the emergency regime known to history as the 
Reign of Terror. 

This was in no sense a working-class dictatorship. The 
Terrorists were of the same social class which had led the 
Revolution from the start — barristers and other professional 
men, even an ex-noble or two. But they put the defence of 
the Revolution first and, with a war on their hands and a 
fifth column in their rear, took no chances. They had no 
intention of abolishing private property, but were ready to 
impose ruthless controls for the duration of the war, and 
had no mercy on men who divided France in face of the 
enemy. Evil things were done : no one defends the noyades 
of Nantes. But their regime will bear comparison with the 
Britain of that day, in which boys of fourteen were hanged 
for theft, men were flogged publicly for killing game between 
sunset and sunrise, poor children were drafted in cartloads 
to a Hving death in cod-mines or cotton-mills or as chimney- 



MODERN HISTORY 227 

sweeps, and a man was whipped through the streets of Edin- 
burgh and banished from Scotland for taking part in a com- 
bination of Glasgow weavers against a reduction of wages. 
Against that background the tirades of Burke about the 
horrors of the French Revolution ring false and hollow. 

Carlyle's judgment that " there is no period to be met with, 
in which the general Twenty-five Millions of France suffered 
less than in this period which they name Reign of Terror " ^ 
is true to this extent, that it was during the Terror that the 
first positive efforts were made to raise the condition of the 
rural and urban masses. Confiscated lands were sold, not to 
the bidder who could pay the fattest wad of assignats, but to 
peasants in small lots. Feudal dues abolished in 1789 subject 
to redemption were in 1793 swept away and the title-deeds 
burnt. *' The Contrat Social section," reports a police agent 
in Paris early in 1794, " has just estabhshed a hospital where 
pregnant women will go and find the broth and meat neces- 
sary in their condition. This has excited the emulation of 
the other sections, and several already propose to imitate it." ^ 
Abroad, the Convention abolished colonial slavery. Last, 
but not least, it is to be noted that the war policy of the Com- 
mittee of Pubhc Safety was free from the aggressive imperial- 
ism pursued later by the Directory and Napoleon. Robespierre 
had opposed the declaration of war in 1792, and to the end 
was acutely aware of the danger of military dictatorship. 
" Our aim," Billaud-Varenne told the Convention in 1794, 
" is not conquest, but victory. We shall cease fire the moment 
the death of an enemy soldier is no longer necessary to free- 
dom. The experience of centuries has sufficiently proved 
that a warrior nation forges a yoke for itself by imposing it 
on others." 

The Terror was bound to end with the emergency which 
had called it into being. But its organizers did not know 
how to end it. Robespierre has the reputation of a ruthless 
dictator, but in reahty he destroyed himself by timidity and 
infirmity of purpose. He could tolerate a priest or an aris- 
tocrat, if they accepted the Revolution, but he could not 

^ Carlyle, French Revolution, last book, chap. VI. 
2 Alger, Paris in 1789-17^4. 



228 MODERN HISTORY 

tolerate an atheist. For the last eight months of his life his 
speeches are one wearisome tirade against the atheism which 
is growing in Paris and other large towns. Moreover, the 
Revolution had undoubtedly thrown up a number of adven- 
turers who speculated in confiscated lands and feathered their 
own nests. To Robespierre the difference between an atheist 
and a grafter is never very clear. The Terror is turned against 
the Left and against his colleagues of the Mountain, and 
becomes midsummer madness — a machine out of control — 
until Left and Right profit by his irresolution to join together 
and strike him dov^oi. But the Right, not the Left, reaps 
the fruits of Thermidor. Thenceforward the bourgeoisie 
are in complete control; concessions to the workers are 
withdrawn; projects of universal education are shelved; 
and starvation, aggravated by inflation, reigns in the midst 
of plenty. The abohtion of feudal privilege has merely 
stripped the mask from capitaUsm. The Jacobins of the 
future will be Sociahsts. Between the devil of royalist re- 
action and the deep sea of working-class revolution, the 
French bourgeoisie turns to foreign conquest and to the 
guns of Bonaparte. 

As in its beginning, so in its end, the French Revolution 
exhibits some similarities with the EngUsh. There are 
obvious parallels between the corruption of the Rump and 
the corruption of the Directory, between the dictatorship of 
Cromwell and that of Napoleon, between the two Restora- 
tions, between 1688 and 1830. But the parallels become less 
important and the divergencies more so as events develop. 
The French Revolution, far more than the EngUsh, was a 
world-event. Marvell's lines on the man who 

Could by industrious valour climb 
To ruin the great work of time, 

And cast the Kingdoms old 

Into another mould ^ 

are far more applicable to Napoleon than to Cromwell. 
World history since the French Revolution has been its 

^ Marvell, An Horatian Ode upon CromwelVs Return from Ireland. 



MODERN HISTORY 229 

continuation. The questions which it put, questions of 
democracy, of Church and State, of the rights of property, 
of landlord and peasant, of capital and labour, are still being 
debated. To deal at any length with post-Revolutionary 
history would carry us into current politics and outside the 
province of this book. 



CHAPTER XIV 

SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 

THE life of man is reflected in his art. The greater the 
artist, the more vivid the reflection. Art may mirror 
life in words, as in poetry and drama; or by wordless 
suggestion, as in music ; or the two may be combined. 

At the time of the French Revolution there lived and 
worked in Vienna one of the greatest of musicians, Wolfgang 
Amadeus Mozart. His life-story is the most scathing of 
satires on the claim of the old regime to have created and fos- 
tered great art. Musicians in the eighteenth century ranked 
among the menial servants of the feudal patrons who con- 
descended to employ them. The son of a poor violinist and 
with no capital but his genius, Mozart throughout his short 
Ufe suffered alternately the patronage and the insults of men 
unworthy to turn the leaves of his scores. The steadiest of 
his patrons, the emperor Joseph II, systematically underpaid 
him. We can hardly wonder that Mozart joined the Free- 
masons, who at that time formed a sort of underground 
opposition to the established order and played a notable part 
in preparing the programme of the French Revolution. In 
1 79 1, the last year of his life, when the French court and 
emigrant nobles were pestering the powers of Europe to 
intervene and crush the Revolution, Mozart wrote and 
produced The Magic Flute, in which the Freemasons (thinly 
disguised as priests of Isis) are glorified and the crusade against 
them rebuked. In Catholic Vienna Mozart's known Free- 
masonry undoubtedly had much to do with the neglect and 
starvation in which his life ended. While old Europe pre- 
pared its war for civilization, its brightest genius was buried 
at the end of that year in a pauper's grave. 

War broke out. After one or two bad starts, France went 
over to the offensive, freed her frontiers, and under the 

230 



SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 23I 

Directory and Napoleon turned the war into one of con- 
quest. To European liberals in those early years Bonaparte 
represented the Revolution, the force which had smashed 
kings and nobles and inaugurated a new age in the history 
of the world. So it seemed to the master-musician on whom 
the mantle of Mozart had fallen, Ludwig van Beethoven — 
like him a poor man's son who knew by experience the 
beggarly lot of the artist in old Europe. In 1804 Beethoven 
wrote his Eroica Symphony, and put into it the storm and 
stress of conflict between old and new — the violence of battle, 
the tragedy of death, the joy of hberation, and in the great 
finale the emergence of a new humanity at one with itself.^ 
It is well known that Beethoven meant to dedicate the work 
to the First Consul, and that on hearing that Napoleon had 
made himself emperor of the French he nearly destroyed the 
score in his anger. 

Thus with the French Revolution came a revision of the 
philosophy of history accepted in the eighteenth century. 
The *' age of reason " had hoped for the peaceful diffusion 
of principles of Uberty, equaUty, and fraternity by such 
educative agencies as the Masonic lodges. Now men had 
come to see that progress could be won only through struggle. 
The transition in music from Mozart to Beethoven is symp- 
tomatic of the change from an epoch of apparent stability 
to one of world-shaking conflict. Although the Europe of 
kings and nobles was able to destroy Napoleon, it did so only 
by enlisting the new nationalism as an ally, and emerged from 
the fray damaged beyond repair. In the next thirty years the 
industrial revolution swept all before it in Britain and made 
progress in France, bringing in its train mass misery and 
intensified class struggles. Central Europe and Italy were 
as yet hardly penetrated by industrialism, but were shaken 
by revolutionary movements which saw in national unity 
and independence the first condition of progress. Both 
causes contributed to the upheavals of 1848. 

In that year Richard Wagner, then conductor at the 

^ The main theme of the finale of the Eroica is taken from the ballet 
Prometheus, composed two years before on the subject of the Titan who 
formed men out of clay. 



232 SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 

Dresden opera-house, was planning a music-drama on a 
theme drawn from Teutonic mythology. While so engaged, 
he was overtaken by the storm. The Revolution which 
dethroned Louis Phihppe in France spread to Germany. 
Within a month Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, and other German 
States were rocked by movements demanding national 
unity and political democracy. Wagner threw himself 
into the fray and publicly appealed to the king of Saxony 
to anticipate the revolution by introducing universal suffrage 
and a radical social programme. The king having failed to 
rise to the occasion, Wagner in 1849 joined the active revo- 
lutionaries and had to escape arrest by flight, taking his 
operatic sketch with him. It was a penniless exile in Zurich 
who in 1852 fmished the poem and began the music of The 
Nibelung's Ring. 

The framework is mere saga. There is nothing original 
or, in the last analysis, even particularly German in the story 
of a ring which brings power, but also a curse, to its possessor, 
or in the enmity of gods and giants, or in the dragon-slaying 
hero, or in the self-immolating heroine. The novelty is 
not in the material, but in Wagner's handhng of it. In 
his appeal of 1848 he had asked " whether man, that crown 
of creation," was " meant by God to serve in menial bondage 
. . . to sallow metal.'' ^ In 1849, immediately after his exile, 
he writes : " Our god is gold, our religion the pursuit of 
wealth." 2 Plainly in the poem which took up the two 
following years he was thinking of no mere fairy ring, but of 
the money-power which was beginning to conquer Europe 
and to subdue human life to the rhythm of an industrial 
machine. 

This is borne out by the music-drama itself. We need 
not be musical critics, we need only read and hsten to 
reahze that the curse lies not only on the possessor of the 
ring, but on the whole world (" he who shall hold it and he 
who shall not " ^), and that the power of the gods is itself 
but a transmuted form of the power of gold. In his prose 
writings of that time Wagner looks forward to "a free 

^ Wagner, Prose Works, vol. IV, The Vaterlandsverein Speech. 
^ Ibid., vol. I, Art and Revolution. ^ Rhine Gold, scene IV. 



SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 233 

mankind, delivered from every shackle of hampering nation- 
ahty " ^ by ** revolution . . . from below, from the urgency 
of true human need." ^ In the music-drama dehverance is 
to be won by a fighter who flouts what others revere, who 
owes nothing to the powers that be, and who for that very 
reason can do what they cannot — even though he pays with 
his life. 

But contemporary history did not go as Wagner hoped. 
European revolution was crushed by European reaction. 
France, the fountain-head of revolution, voted the clericals 
into power and Napoleon the Little on to the throne of his 
uncle. Wagner, ill and depressed, read Schopenhauer and 
became convinced that mankind, in bondage to illusion, 
was for ever doomed to frustration and that only by renouncing 
struggle could we attain inward happiness. In this mood he 
continued and, after long interruption and many vicissitudes, 
finished The Ring, though he never entirely purged it of 
the revolutionary ideas of 1848 and therefore never rendered 
it internally consistent. A thorough-going treatment of 
the theme of renunciation was reserved for his last work, 
Parsifal. 

Every thoughtful student of history is confronted by these 
alternative interpretations. Is there discernible in history 
taken as a whole anything which we can call progress, or is 
the record one of an aimless struggle among a species of 
higher apes, in which any apparent gain is offset by equal 
or greater loss? The idea of automatic progress must be 
ruled out at once. No one is so naive as to maintain that 
from the mathematics of Egypt and Babylon to the philosophy 
and art of Greece, the jurisprudence of Rome, the theology 
of the Middle Ages, and the science and social conscience 
of the modem world jruns a continuous line of advance in 
which each segment represents a clear gain on the last. 
On the contrary, it is evident that the emergence of 
Greek civilization from the background of ancient Asia, 
the appropriation of the Greek achievement by Rome, the 
decline and fall of Rome before Gibbon's " barbarism and 

^ Prose Works, vol. I, Art and Revolution. 
Ibid., A Communication to My Friends. 



2 



234 SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 

religion," ^ and the overthrow of medieval CathoHcism by 
modern commercial civilization were in each case attended 
by cruel struggles, and in each case created problems which 
the succeeding order could not solve without creating new 
ones in their place. 

Nor is it a sufficient answer to say that in every such struggle 
good triumphs over evil and enlightenment over obscurantism. 
We are apt to think so, but then in many cases we have 
only the winning side's account of the matter. There is 
no Persian history of the Graeco-Persian wars. All pagan 
accounts of the victory of Christianity over paganism have 
perished. Where we have both versions, we see that virtue 
and enlightenment were not confined to one side. Luther 
was assuredly not more enlightened than Erasmus, nor 
Henry VIII a better man than More, nor Cromwell than 
Falkland, nor Napoleon than Pitt, nor Mettemich than 
Napoleon. History is not a tale of the triumph of virtue over 
vice. If we say in any given case that the winning side was 
the better, it must be on some other ground than that. 

Is there such a ground? To answer this question we must 
clear up our conceptions of good and evil. Once we re- 
pudiate the authority of so-called divine revelation, we 
cannot even pretend to apply those labels in any but a relative 
sense. Good can mean only what is good for so-and-so, 
evil only what is evil for so-and-so. If so-and-so is Every- 
man, so much the better : there wiU then be nobody to dispute 
his valuations. But usually so-and-so is not Everyman. 
Usually he is the average member of a social group strong 
enough to impose its views — a primitive tribesman; an 
Egyptian or Babylonian priest ; a Greek or Roman citizen ; 
a medieval cleric, baron, or burgher; a modern politician or 
press-lord. In such a case there is always somebody to dis- 
pute his valuations — an enemy tribesman, an ancient prophet 
or philosopher, a medieval heretic or peasant rebel, a modem 
reformer or revolutionary. It is useless to attempt to answer 
the question whether progress is discernible in history until we 
have decided whose good is to be the criterion. 

We escape this difficulty as long as we confine our atten- 
1 Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chap. LXXI. 



SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 235 

tion to scientific and technical progress. Here the criterion 
is simple. Obviously one country or one age has more 
knowledge of and command over nature than another. Archi- 
medes represents an advance on the Egyptian priests, Newton 
on Archimedes, Einstein on Newton. But we need not here 
waste time on this criterion. It is the fashion now to decry 
scientific and technical progress, to ignore its obvious gains 
in the lightening of daily labour and the reduction of daily 
suffering, and to ask derisively whether discovery and inven- 
tion are w^orth while if they have merely led us from the 
bow and arrow to the atomic bomb. 

The people who decry science never for a moment con- 
template doing without the daily advantages which they 
owe to it. Nevertheless, let us for the sake of argument 
ignore discovery and invention and consider only what is 
called moral progress. We are immediately up against the 
difficulty of the relativity of moral values. For example, 
we take for granted that the abohtion of slavery is moral 
progress. Plato and Aristotle would have called it moral 
retrogression. We take for granted that a society which 
does not bum heretics has advanced morally on one which 
does. Thomas Aquinas would have called it sinful indifference 
to the welfare of souls. We look back with horror to the 
days when people flocked to public executions. Dr. Johnson 
defended pubhc executions. ** Sir, executions are intended 
to draw spectators. If they do not draw spectators, they 
don't answer their purpose.' ' ^ Now Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, 
and Johnson were not morally insensitive. Their moral 
standards simply differed from ours. And though prac- 
tically all of us disagree with them on the issues stated, it 
would be possible to name other issues which divide man 
from man today just as deeply as these divide us from the 
sages of the past. 

It will be easier to answer our main question if we consider 
why we differ from these distinguished men on such issues. 
If we ask why we disagree with Plato and Aristotle about 
slavery, the answer is that we are able to do without it. 
Greek and Roman citizens could not do without it : they 
^ Boswell, Life of Johnson, Everyman edition, vol. II, p. 447. 



236 SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 

were dependent on it for all those things which to them made 
life worth Hving. In consequence practically no one pro- 
posed to abohsh slavery. The many were frankly regarded 
as means to a good hfe for the few. In course of time, owing 
to causes mentioned earher in this book, their descendants 
were forced to do without slaves — first, to substitute for gang- 
slavery the less rigorous system of medieval serfdom, and 
in the end to abohsh that too. When slavery ceased to be 
the rule in Europe, pubhc opinion began to condemn it, 
and fmally became strong enough to enforce its abohtion in 
tropical and sub-tropical chmates where it was still the rule. 
In the United States the North, which knew that it could 
provide itself with the amenities of hfe without slavery, 
forced abohtion on the South, which beheved that it could 
not. The economic change preceded the moral. The 
average man is as humane as circumstances allow him to be, 
but no more. 

If we ask why we differ from Thomas Aquinas about the 
burning of heretics, the answer is that we do not, as he did, 
see in heresy a mortal danger to mankind. To Thomas a 
heretic was a murderer of souls, a cancer in the body of the 
Church to be cauterized without mercy. We do not con- 
sider rehgious conformity vital to our temporal and eternal 
welfare, and therefore do not take a serious view of its infrac- 
tion. To say that we have an invincible objection to burning 
people ahve, when competent authority thinks necessary, 
would be unduly complacent in a society which in war uses 
flame-throwers and jellied petrol and obhterates cities with 
high explosive, incendiary, and atomic bombs. Once again, 
the average man is as humane as circumstances allow him to 
be, but no more. 

If we ask why we differ from Johnson about pubhc execu- 
tions, the answer again is that we fmd we can do without 
them. In the eighteenth century, when mass povert)^ of a 
degree now unknov^m in this country led to a crime rate 
now also unknown, the propertied classes who controlled 
Parliament thought it necessary to their security to punish 
hundreds of offences with hanging and to terrorize potential 
offenders by making it a pubhc spectacle. Various causes 



SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 237 

contributed to the reformation of our penal code. Juries 
drawn from a less limited class than members of Parliament 
refused to send people to the gallows for petty theft and so 
brought the law into disrepute. Parliament itself was reformed 
and opened to a wider class than before. The abohtion of 
hanging for certain offences, being followed by no increase 
in those offences, led to its abohtion for others with the same 
negative result. Finally it was found that public executions, 
far from being a deterrent to crime, actually by attracting 
degraded and hardened characters to the spot contributed to 
its increase. Today we do without public hangings and, if 
we were confident that total abolition would lead to no 
increase in murder, should probably do without hanging at 
all. Here again the average man is as humane as circumstances 
allow him to be, but no more. 

That being so, to expect history to reveal an automatic 
increase in the moral stature of individuals is as unreasonable 
as to expect it to reveal an automatic increase in their physical 
stature. As the physical stature of man is conditioned by his 
natural environment, so is his moral stature by his social 
environment. As giants or dwarfs may occur in the one 
case, so may saints or criminals in the other; but they are 
not typical. The only kind of moral progress for which we 
may legitimately look in history is social development of 
such a kind as to reduce the frictions which make for unsocial 
behaviour. 

The view which denies the fact of progress is as shallow as 
that which regards progress as automatic and inevitable. 
Those who see in human history a mere continuation of the 
struggle for existence which reigns in the animal kingdom 
have to explain away the unaccountable fact that they can 
entertain the idea of progress, even to reject it — that they can 
look at the struggle and pronounce it vain. Man alone 
among animals has evolved a critical faculty; and the fact 
that he has evolved it suggests that it serves some useful 
purpose. Plato and Aristotle approved of slavery, but at 
least they thought it worth arguing about. To that extent 
they represented an advance on the warriors and kings who 
took slavery for granted. No philosopher of the present 



238 SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 

day defends slavery even in argument. To that extent we 
have advanced on Plato and Aristotle. Nor does any writer 
of world repute today advocate the death penalty for heresy. 
There are Catholic authorities on canon law who do ; but the 
majority even of their co-religionists have never heard of 
them, and but for the researches of Mr. Joseph McCabe and 
Mr. Avro Manhattan we might be unaware of their existence. 
To that extent we have advanced on Thomas Aquinas. 
Nor does any one now say a word for the penal practice 
of the eighteenth century. To that extent we have advanced 
on Dr. Johnson. 

But that is not the root of the matter. Age cannot be 
compared with age by measuring the stature of their intel- 
lectuals. The criterion of progress in history is, when we 
think it out, the well-being of men and women in the mass, 
for the simple reason that without men and women in the 
mass there would be no intellectuals. To those who argue 
that the masses are a mere means for the production of an 
aristocracy of artists, poets, and thinkers, the answer is that 
the masses support artists, poets, and thinkers, and not vice 
versa ; that if the masses withdraw their support, the game 
will be up ; and that there is no reason why they should support 
artists, poets, and thinkers except in return for benefits received. 
History is the saga of men and women like you and me ; 
of our age-long struggle to win a living from nature; of 
discovery and invention ; of ignorance and superstition ; of 
benefactors and betrayers ; of exploiters and liberators ; of 
defeat, the stepping-stone to victory; and of victory, the 
starting-point of new struggle. That the struggle is unending 
does not prove it vain. The very fact of struggle impUes 
the existence of evil : in that sense evil is an ingredient of 
life itself. But the enemy which we fight is never evil in 
the abstract, but always some particular evil in the concrete. 
To those who combat it, the conquest of any particular evil 
is good. Good, therefore, is no less than evil an ingredient 
ofhfe. 

No one who reads the history and other literature of 
the ancient world in which the majority were slaves, or 
that of the medieval world (as distinct from modem romance 



SAGA OF CIVILIZATION 239 

about it) in which the majority were serfs, can doubt that 
the mass of men and women in our world have gained in 
concrete well-being more than they have lost. That gain 
is none the less a fact because the successful struggles of the 
past have left us face to face with new devils to fight — the 
devil of mass poverty where it still exists, the devil of mass 
ignorance and superstition, and the devil of total war with 
its weapons of mass destruction, to name no others. History 
should teach us that what man has done, man can do — that 
as men and women like ourselves fought and overcame their 
ancient and medieval oppressors, so we, their children and 
heirs, have it in us to carry on the fight, to. refuse to be destroyed 
by the work of our own hands, and to bequeath to our 
descendants new tasks to face and new worlds to win. 



INDEX 



Acta Diurna, 67, 82 

Actium, 78, 80, 89 

Adoptionism, 160-162 

Africa, 54, 57-58, 112-113, 147, 183, 217 

Agrippina, 82, 86, 92, 96-98, 100 

Albigenses, 170, 174-175 

Alcibiades, 30-31 

Alcuin, 156, 160-161 

Alexander Severus, 136 

Alexander the Great, ii, 42, 44-49, 

54-55, 64, 68, 69 n., 84, 89, 103, 121, 

123 
Alexandria, 47-48, 78, 117, 123-124, 148 
Alfred, 162-163 
Alger, J. G., 223, 227 n. 
America, 9, 11, 26, 52, 225, 236 
Ammianus Marcellinus, 138, 150-151 
Amphipolis, 30, 41 

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 162-163, 165-167 
Antigonus, 46-48 

Antioch, 48, 123, 140, 144, 169-170 
Antipater, 42-43 
Antium, 99-100 

Antony, Mark, 74-76, 78-81, 83 
Anytus, 36, 39 

Appian, 59, 64, 72, 77, 111-112, 117 
Arabs, 113, 137, 139-140. 168, 177 
Archimedes, 66, 235 
Arianism, 148-149, 158 
Aristobulus II, 123, 127 
Aristophanes, 27, 35-36 
Aristotle, 43-46, 235, 237-238 
Armada, Spanish, 199-200 
Armenia, 137, 142-144, 146, 170-171 
Arrian, 45, 111-112, 117 
Ashley, W.J., 154, 184 
Asia, 9, 17-19. 29, 37, 40, 46, 48, 54, 59, 

61, 64, 112, 117, 119, 125, 137, 141-142, 

168-170, 182-183, 233 
Assyria, 17-19, 116, 119 
Athens, 18-21, 23-33, 3^-43. 47, 49-50, 

53,116 
Atlantic, 182, 185 
Augustan History, no, 138 
Augustus (Octavius, Octavian), 74, 

76-81, 83-92, 94, 96, 102, 105, 139 
Aurelian, 13 8-1 41 

Aurelius, Marcus, 111-112, 133, 135, 142 
Avignon, 177, 179 



Babylonia, 11, 18-19, 37, 45, 48, 116-117, 
119, 140, 233-234 



Balkans, 137, 142, 146, 150, 170 

Ball, John, 179-180 

Bavaria, 162, 232 

Becket, Thomas, 172, 173 n. 

Bede, 154, 156-162 

Beethoven, Ludwig van, 231 

Belloc, Hilaire, 164, 222 

Bithynia, 107, 109 

Bonaparte — see Napoleon 

Bristol, 183, 185 

Britain, 26, 69-70, 94, 108-109, 141. 

144-145, 157, 221, 226-227, 231 
Bruges, 176, 208 
Brutus, 62, 74-75, 77, 88, 108 
Bulgars, 170-171 

Burghley, William Cecil, Lord, 197, 200 
Burke, Edmund, 221, 223, 227 
Burnet, Gilbert, 209, 215, 219-220 
Byzantine Empire, 170-171 

Caesar, Julius, 61-62, 65-70, 72-79, 84, 

87-90, 142 
Caligula, 93, 96 
Cambridge, 194, 199 
Canterbury, 167, 180, 194 
Carlyle, Thomas, 11, 39-40, 222-223, 227 
Carthage, 54-59. I47 
Cassius, 74, 77, 88, 108 
Cathars, 170-174 
Catholicism, 6, 11 5-1 16, 134, 156, 160, 

170-174, 181, 185, 187, 189-193, 

196-197, 199, 202, 207, 210, 214, 

222-223, 225, 230, 234, 236, 238 
Catiline, 62-64, 66-68, 76, loi 
Cato, 62, 66 n. 
Catullus, 70, 72 

Cavaliers, 206, 208, 210, 213-219 
Celsus, 131, 133 
Celts, 58, 69, 95, 157, 193 
Chaeronea, 41, 42 n., 45, 117 
Charles I of England, 202-211, 224 
Charles II of England, 203, 215-220 
Charles VII of France, 1 81-182 
Charles the Great (Charlemagne), 160- 

162, 176 
China, 9, 17 
Chrestus, 95, 129 
Christ, 2, 35, 90 n., 95, 100, 109-110, 1 16, 

124-125, 130-131, 134, 136, 140, 

147-148, 171, 199, 213 
Christianity, 6, 9, 13, 17, 22, 35, 52, 95, 

loo-ioi, 103, 106-107, 109-110, 



241 



242 



INDEX 



112-114, 116-118, 122-124, 127-129, 

131-138, 140-152, 157, 159-162, 164, 

167-171, 180, 182, 198, 234 
Cicero, 61-64, 66, 68, 72-77, 80, 95 
Civil War, English, 205, 214 
Clarendon, Edward Hyde, Earl of, 

202-206, 208-210, 214 
Claudius, 80, 86, 94-98, 103, 105, 129 
Cleon, 27, 29-30 
Cleopatra, 78-80, 89 
Clodius, 67-68, 70 
Columbus, Christopher, 9, 183 
Committee of Public Safety, 226-227 
Commons, House of, 188, 190-191, 195, 

205, 207-209, 212, 215, 219, 220 n., 

223-224 
Commonwealth, 201, 213, 215-218, 220, 

225 
Constantine, 138-139, 145-150, 176 
Constantinople, 150, 157-158, 168, 170, 

182 
Constantius, 141, 144-145 
Corinth, 24-25, 59, 123 
Corsica, 55, 57 
Crassus, 62, 65-67, 72 
Creighton, Mandell, 184, 196 
Cromwell, Oliver, 68, 189, 207-219, 221, 

228, 234 
Crusades, 167-169, 174, 176, 182 
Cunningham, William, 154, 168, 184, 

198 n., 201, 215 
Cyprus, 50, no 
Cyrene, no, 123 

Dacia, 109, 139 

Dante, 175-176 

Danton, G. J., 222, 226 

Danube, 87, 95, 105, 109, 137, 139-141, 

146 
Dark Ages, 6, 9, 153, 172, 174 
De Hceretico Comhurendo, statute, 181, 195 
Delphi, 20-21, 33 
Demetrius, 47, 49, 54-55 
Demosthenes, 26, 40-43, 48 
D'Ewes, Sir Simonds, 195-196, 206-207 
Dio Cassius, 64, 72, 77, 82-83, 92-93, 

107 n., 108, no 
Diocletian, 79, 138-139, 141-145, 
Diodorus, 40, 45 
Diogenes Laertius, 49-50 
Dionysus (Bacchus), 34-35, 47, 59, no, 

123. 132 
Directory, French, 227-228, 23 1 
Domesday Book, 155, 166 
Domitian, 82, 102-103, 106-109, 125 

East Anglia, 188, 199, 208 
East India Company, 201, 214 
Edward the Confessor, 165 
Edward I, 176 



Edward III, 177 
Edward VI, 192 
Egypt, 9, II, 18, 39, 47-48, 54, 58, 64, 

73, 78-79, 83-84, 89, n6-n8, 121, 132, 

137, 139, 142-144, 233-235 
EHzabeth, 192, 195-199, 201-202, 225 
England ii, 143 n., 154-160, 162-163, 

165-170, 172, 175-226, 228 
Epicureans, 14, 49-51, 70-71 
Epirus, 54-55 
Essenes, 123, 127 
Essex, 166, 179, 212 
Etruscans, 53, 58, 91 
Euphrates, 17, 49, 143 
Euripides, 33-36 
Europe, 9, 12, 16-17, 29, 52, 80, 95, 109, 

153, 164, 168, 170-171, 175, 178-180, 

182, 184-185, 187-188, 221, 230-233, 

236 
Eusebius, 134 n., 136-138, 141-147 
Evelyn, John, 209, 215-218 
Exeter, 193, 220 

Fairfax, Sir Thomas, 205-206, 209-210, 

212 
Family of Love, 198-199 
leUx, 97-98 

Ferrero, GugUelmo, 65, 77 
Firth, C. H., 201, 206 n., 209, 215 n. 
Fisher, John, 1 90-1 91 
Flanders, 166, 176-177 
Florence, 174, 182 
France, n, 28-29, 69, 155, 164-171, 

173-174, 176-182, 184-185, 188, 196, 

202, 206, 219, 221-233 
Franks, 137, 151, 158, 160, 162-164, 171 
Freemasons, 230-231 
Freethought, 181, 198 
Friends, Society of, 209, 213 
Froissart, John, 156, 179 n. 
Fuller, Thomas, 195, 199 n. 

Galerius, 141-143, 145-146 

Gardiner, S. R., 201, 202 n,, 204, 207 n., 

208 n., 209-210 
Gaul, 53, 57, 67-70, 73, 94, 102, 104-105, 

137, 139, 141, 144, 146, 157, 159, 162 
Genoa, 174, 183 
Germanicus, 89, 92, 94 
Germany, 43, 89, 104, 135-136, 146, 

150-151, 155, 157, 161, 170, 173-174, 

179, 181, 193-194, 232 
Gibbon, Edward, 7-8, 13, in, 114, 

136 n., 139 n., 154, 169 n., 173 n., 174, 

233-234 
Gildas, 156-157, 162 
Gnostics, 124, 132, 134, 148 
God, 2, 5, 14, 22, 37, 42, 50, 91, 113, 116, 

119-120, 122-132, 134, 140, 147-149, 



INDEX 



243 



151. I57» 159-160, 162, 166, 171, 179, 
212, 221, 232 

Godwin, Earl, 165-166 

Gooch, G. P., 201, 209, 213 n. 

Goths, 137-139, 151. 158 

Gracchi, 60-61, 67 

Grafton, Richard, 192-194 

Great Schism, 1 79-1 81 

Greece, 5-6, 9, 11-12, 14, 17-21, 23-25, 
28-29, 33-34, 37-38, 4C^50, 52-59, 61, 
64, 66, 69, 73, 85, 89, 92-93, 96-97, 102, 
no, 112, 117, 121, 123-124, 130, 
132-133, 140, 142, 148-149, 162, 171, 
177, 208, 233-236 

Green, J. R., 154, 184 

Gregory I, 158-159 

Gregory VII, 167, 177 



Hadrian, 82, iio-iii 

Halicamassus, 18, 116 

Hall, Edward, 187-190, 192 

Hampton Court, 203, 211 

Hannibal, 55, 57-58, 113 

Harold, 165-166 

Harrison, William, 195-197 

Hasmonaeans, 122, 129 

Hellenism, 48-50, 121 

Henry II, 162, 169, 172-173 

Henry III, 176 

Henry IV, 181 

Henry V, 181 

Henry VII, 183, 185 

Henry VIII, 186-193, 198, 225, 234 

Herodotus, 6, 18-23, 53, 116, 154 

Herods, 89, 129 

Hesiod, 19, 38 

Hipparchus, 66, 112 

Hobbes, Thomas, 158, 174 

HoUnshed, Raphael, 192-195, 198 n. 

Holland, 198, 213, 216-217, 220, 225 

Homer, 19, 34, 38 

Horace, 57, 77, 83 

Hun, Richard, 187, 190 

Hundred Years' War, 177-178, 182 



Iberians, 69, 95 

Illyria, 104-105, 113, 137-138, 141 

India, 9, 17, 46, 183 

Innocent III, 174, 177 

Inquisition, 175, 181 

Ireland, 169, 201, 209, 212, 214 

Ireton, Henry, 210, 214 

Isis, 89-90, no, 123, 230 

Islam, 9, 14, 140, 160, 162, 167-170, 173, 

182 
Isocrates, 37-38, 40-42, 44-45 
Israel, 116, 118-121, 123 
Italy, 19, 52-63, 68-69, 72-73, 78-81, 



83-85, 89-91, 95, 102-104, 108, 
111-113, 115 n., 129, 135, 139-140, 
150, 156-158, 162, 165, 167, 169-170, 
173-177, 179, 182, 185,231 



Jacobinism, 14, 225, 228 

Jacquerie, 178, 180 

Jahveh, 120, 124 

James I, 195, 201-202 

James II, 217, 219-221 

Jerusalem, 48, 64, 91, 102-103, 105, 

IIO-III, 116-117, 120-121, 123, 

126-127, 1 31-13 2, 167-169 
Jesus, 2, 90 n., loi, no, 116, 124-132, 

148, 160, 213 
Jews, 14, 48-49, 56, 64, 75, 89-91, 95, 

103-107, 109-111, 113-114, 116-124, 

129-13 1, 135-136, 140, 167-169, 216 
Joan of Arc, 1 81-182 
Johnson, Samuel, 235-236, 238 
Josephus, 48, 64, 82, 90 n., 93, 103-106 
Joshua, 122, 130 
Judaea, 89, 97, 100, 105, 122, 131 
Judah, 1 1 8-1 19 
Jupiter, 105-106, III 
Justin, 128, 133 



Kent, 160, 166, 179 

Ket, Robert, 193-194, 208 



Latins, 53, 55, 58, 76, 80 

Laud, William, 203-204, 221 

Leonidas, 20-21 

Lepidus, 76, 79 

Levellers, 211-214, 225 

Lilburne, John, 208, 210-213, 220 

Lincoln, Abraham, 23, 85 

Livy, 52-54, 56-57, 59, 117 

Lollards, 179-181, 187 

Lombards, 162, 175 

London, 163, 176, 179, 186-187, 190, 192, 

195, 204-205, 212-217, 219 
Long Parliament, 201, 204, 207, 210 
Lords, House of, 191, 195, 204-205, 

208-211, 215, 224 
Louis XIII, 202 
Louis XIV, 219-221 
Louis XVI, 224-225 
Lucretius, 49, 70-72 
Luther, Martin, 186-187, 234 
Lyons, 133, 1 73 



Macaulay, Lord, 23, 215, 222 
Maccabees, 48, 121-122 
Macedonia, 34, 40-43, 45-47, 54-56, 59 
Malmesbury, William of, 154, 156, 167 



244 



INDEX 



Manchester, Edward Montagu, Earl of, 

207-208 
Marat, J. P., 222, 225 
Marius, 61, 65 
Marxism, 10, 28 
Mary I, 192, 195 
Maxentius, 145-146 
Maximian, 141, 145 
Maximin I, 136 
Maximin II, 146 
Mediterranean, 16, 52, 56, 58, 62, 69, 79, 

81, 89, 91, 123, 129-131, 151 
Megalopolis, 56, 117 
Meletus, 36, 39 
Melos, 30, 33 
MessaUna, 96, 98 
Messiah, 103, 106, iio, 116, 122-124, 

127, 129-132, 134-135, 148 
Middle Ages, 6, 9, 17, 115 n., 150, 

153-156, 170-171, 182, 189, 192, 233 
Milan, 141, 145-146, 149, 173-175 
Milton, John, 42 n., 211 
Mithra, 123, 135, 140-141 
Mithridates, 61-62, 64 
Monk, George, 215-216 
More, Sir Thomas, 186-187, 191, 234 
Moses, 118, 121 
Mountain (party), 226, 228 
Mozart, W. A., 230-231 



Naples, 115, 179 

Napoleon Bonaparte, 11, 221, 227-228, 

231,233-234 
Narcissus, 96-98 

National Assembly, French, 224-225 
National Convention, French, 225-227 
Nero, 82, 85-86, 96-102, 104, 106, 108, 

131 
Nerva, 82, 84, 108 

Newburgh, WilUam of, 156, 172-173 
New Model, 208, 211, 220 
New Testament, 6, 8, 48, 115, 124-134, 

148, 199 
New World, 183-185, 191 
Newton, Sir Isaac, 218, 235 
Nicasa, 48, 129, 148-149, 161 
Nicias, 29, 31 

Nicomedia, 117, 141, 143-144 
Norfolk, 185, 188-189, 193-195, 197 
Normandy, Normans, 163-169, 171, 176, 

181-182 
Northumberland, John Dudley, Duke of, 

194-195 
Norwich, 185-186, 193-194, 199 



Octavia (wife of Nero), 99-100 
Octavian — see Augustus 
Offa, 160-161 



Old Testament, 6, 8, 49, 90-91, 115, 118- 

124, 134 
Olympians, 34, 46 
Origen, 131 n., 133 n. 
Oxford, 172, 190, 212 



Paine, Thomas, 181, 223 

Palestine, 89, 91, iii, 116, 118-119, 

123, 129, 131, 138, 143-144. 148, 167, 

169 
Pallas, 97-98 
Palmyra, 139-140 
Papacy, 7, 11, 158, 161, 164-165, 167, 

169, 173-177, 179-182, 185, 191, 

196-197 
Paris (city), 176, 181, 208, 224, 226-228 
Paris, Matthew, 154, 156, 175, 176 n. 
Parliament, 176, 180-181, 185, 191, 197, 

201-202, 204-220, 223, 236-237 
Parthia, 49, 72, no 
Patarenes, 170, 175 
Paulicians, 170, 174-175 
Pauline Epistles, 124-125, 127-134 
PaulofSamosata, 129, 140, 170 
Peloponnesian War, 19, 24, 28-31, 33, 

37-39, 46 
Pentateuch, 118, 121 
Pepys, Samuel, 215-218 
Pericles, 19, 25-27, 29-30, 33, 37, 41, 43, 

48 
Persia, 11, 18-23, 3i, 37, 40, 45-46, 53, 

85, no, 116-117, 119, 121, 136-137, 

139-140, 234 
Petty, Sir WilUam, 212, 218 
Pharaohs, 17, 46, 84, 116, 118 
Pharisees, 122-123 
Pharsalus, 73-74 
Philaids, 24, 32 
PhiUp Augustus, 176 
Philip IV of France, 177 
Philip VI of France, 177 
Philip of Macedon, 37-38, 40-42, 44-45 
PhiHp II of Spain, 196, 199 
PhiUppi, 74, 77 
Philo, 93, 124 
Phoenicia, 50, 56, 143 
Pilate, Pontius, 91, 93, 100, 116, 127, 129 
Plato, 26, 35-39, 49-5°, 235, 237-238 
Pliny the Elder, 82, 107 
PHny the Younger, 107-110, 133, 140, 

151 
Plutarch, 32, 40, 43, 45, 53-54, 59, 64-65, 

72, 77, 80, 117 
Polybius, 6, 52-53, 56^-57, 59, 116 
Pompey, 62-70, 72-73, 78, 89, 122-123 
Pontus, 61, 107, 109 
Poor Law, 201, 224 
Portugal, 183, 185 
Prayer Book, English, 192-193, 217 



INDEX 



245 



Protectorate, 201, 214-215 
Protestantism, 185, 193, 196, 198, 207, 

218, 225 
Ptolemies, 48, 78, 123 
Ptolemy I, 45, 47, 54 
Punic Wars, 56-59 

Puritanism, 14, 204, 207-208, 2 1 7-2 1 8 
Pym, John, 205, 224 
Pyrrhus, 54-55 

Quakers, 209, 213 

Rainborough, Colonel, 210-21 1 
Rationalism, 3, 6, 24, 33, 35, 120, 161-162 
Reformation, 6-7, 9, 160, 177, 184-187, 

191-192, 195-196, 198-199, 225 
Renaissance, 6, 9, 62, 153 
Restoration, 209, 215-216, 228 
Rhine, 69, 95, 104, 108, 136, 140, 145 
Rhodes, 47, 87 

Richelieu, Cardinal, 202, 204, 221 
Robespierre, Maximilien, 221-222, 226- 

228 
Rome, 9, 12, 14, 16, 52-85, 87-114, 
116-117, 119, 122-125, 127-131, 
133-142, 145-147, 149-151, 155. 157- 
158, 162, 164-166, 169, 173, 177, 
179, 190-191, 196, 219, 225, 233-236 
Roses, Wars of the, 188, 191 
Roimdheads, 205-206, 218 
Rump Parhament, 213, 215, 228 

Sabines, 58, 105 

Salamis, 18, 20, 33 

Samaritans, 118, 121 

Sardinia, 55, 57-58, 90 

Satan, 171-172 

Saxons, 151, 157, 161-162, 165 

Scipio Africanus, 58, 64 

Scotland, 39, 41, 179, 195, 208, 211, 214, 

225, 227 
Secundus, 98-101 
Sejanus, 86, 91-92 
Seleucids, 48, 54 
Seneca, 96-100, 102 
Severus, Septimius, 113, 135-136 
Shakespeare, William, 74-75, 112 
Sibylline books, 59, 89-90 
Sicily, 30-31, 34, 54-58, 78, 99, III, 165 
Slavs, 109, 155, 170 
Socialism, 213, 223, 228 
Socrates, 35-37, 50 
Somerset, Edward Seymour, Duke of, 

193-195 
Somersetshire, 200, 206 
Spain, 57-58, 62, 73, 102, 108, 112, 141, 

144, 160, 164, 179, 185, 196, 199, 202, 

221 



Sparta, 20-22, 24-26, 29-31, 33. 37-38, 46 

Spartacus, 62-63, 76 

States-General, 177-178, 222 

Stoics, 10, 14, 50-51, 56, 112, 124, 133 

Strafford, Thomas Wentworth, Earl of, 

204, 221 
Strype, John, 195-197, 199 n. 
Stuarts, 203, 210 

Stubbs, William, 154, 173 n., 176 n. 
Suetonius, 65-66, 72, 73 n., 75-77, 82-83, 

85, 87-88, 92-95, 97-100, 102-103, 

106-107, 130, 133 
Suffolk, 188, 194-195, 197, 206 
Sulla, 61-62, 65-66, 72, 78, 89 
Swinburne, A. C, 151-152 
Synoptic Gospels, 126-128, 131-132 
Syracuse, 21, 31 
Syria, 48, 64, 104, 113, 118-119, 128, 

136-137, 139, 143, 148, 167 

Tacitus, 6, 82-95, 97-103, 107-109, 133, 

155 
Tarentum, 54-55 
Tennyson, Lord, 13, 70 
Terror, Reign of, 226-228 
Tertullian, 113, 147 
Teutons, 109, 161, 232 
Thales, 5, 18 
Thames, 69, 166 
Thebes (Greece), 33, 37, 40-41 
Themistocles, 20, 27 
Thermopylae, 20-21 
Thomas Aquinas, 235-236, 238 
Thrace, 24, 27, 30, 32, 41, 54, 104, 113, 

136, 141 
Thucydides, 6, 23-32, 37, 41, 56, 85, 

116, 154 
Thurloe, John, 209, 215 n. 
Tiber, 89, 93-94, 146 
Tiberius, 82, 86-96, 100, 103, 105-106, 

123, 129, 157 
Titus, 105-106 
Tories, 215, 219 
Toulouse, 170, 174 
Trajan, 82, 84-85, 107-111, 139, 1 51 
Troy, 5, 33, 99 
Tudors, 184-188, 195-196, 199, 201-202, 

221 
Turks, 168, 182 
Tyre, 46, 56, 143 n. 

United States, 26, 225, 236 

Venice, 174, 185 

Vespasian, 82, 98, 102, 105-106, 108 

Vikings, 155, 161, 163 

Virgil, 2, 77, 83 

Voltaire, F. M. A. de, 33, 112, 222 



246 INDEX 



Wagner, Richard, 231-233 

Walsingham, Thomas, 156, 179 

WeUs, H. G., 9-11 

Wessex, 160, 163 

Westminster, 204-205, 207, 213 

West Riding, 209, 217 

Whigs, 215, 218-219 

Whitehall, 204, 211, 215 

William the Conqueror, 165-167, 208, 

212 
William III, 220-221 
Winstanley, Gerrard, 212-213 
Wolsey, Thomas, 1 87-191 
World War, First, 9, 43 



WyclifFe, John, 1 79-1 81, 187 
Wymondham, 193-194 



Xenophon, 35-37, 45 
Xerxes, 20-22 



York, 145, 160 
Yorkshire, 205-207 

Zealots, 104-105 
Zenobia, 139-140 
Zeus, 34, 46 



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